While pain is not always a symptom in IC, for the men and women who have it, it can be agonizing, as if razors are cutting our bladders. Yet, for years, patients have been told that it’s all in their heads and that they just need to ignore the pain. Hogwash!! Would you deny a cancer patient pain care?? Of course not. The pain of interstitial cystitis has been rated equivalent to cancer pain and deserves urgent, compassionate treatment.
In 2019, researchers from Italy demonstrated that palmitoylethanolamide (an OTC supplement) was effective at reducing pain intensity and urinary symptoms. PEA has grown in popularity in Europe with multiple studies showing success at reducing a variety of painful conditions. PEA is an N-acylethanolamine that promotes the resolution of inflammation and restores tissue homestasis. The 2019 study evaluated its effectiveness at reducing IC/BPS symptoms in patients unresponsive to other treatments. Significant reductions of pain and urinary symptoms improved progressively during treatment with no adverse events reported. Urologists are enthusiastic about having a viable pain treatment option that is affordable, available OTC with no side effects nor risk of addiction. PEA is available as PEAORA® in the United States. (Source: Cervigni M, et al. Micronized Palmitoylethanolamide-Polydatin Reduces the Painful Symptomatology in Patients with Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome. Biomed Res Int. 2019)
Each patient faces three challenges:
- They must learn to differentiate the type of flare/pain they are having. (i.e. the bladder wall vs the pelvic floor vs. other organs in the pelvis). Bladder wall flares are treated very differently than pelvic floor flares.
- They must learn to catch and treat flare/pain as early as possible, ideally with self-help strategies, OTC products and, if needed, more aggressive pain therapies.
- They must try to prevent future bladder and pelvic floor flares by following key self-help strategies (i.e. diet modification, etc)