Controlling the pain of IC with OTC medications: NSAIDs
Common over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications used in Interstitial Cystitis include NSAIDS, like ibuprofen or naproxen, and topical analgesic agents like Phenazopyridine (which acts directly on the mucous lining of the bladder).
Your doctor can definitely offer you a more list of more powerful prescription drugs including narcotics and antispasmodics. For some of you, prescription meds will be the right option. But for others, reasons like potential side effects, cost, desire to avoid narcotics, etc, etc, may have you looking for non-prescription options you can purchase yourself.
Below are a few options that are commonly used by other IC patients.
NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs):
The NSAIDs are a group of pain medications including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Yep, the same Advil and Aleve that you use for all your other aches and pains are the two NSAIDS most commonly used for bladder related discomfort.
Some people swear these drugs help with the bladder pain of IC though I have never found that to be true myself. But, as we all know, everyone experiences IC a little differently, so maybe it will work for you! I’m not going to spend much time talking about the NSAIDS because they are super common and most people have used these medications before.
Please be aware that even though they are widely used, NSAIDs actually have a substantial risk when used excessively or if you have certain health problems like high blood pressure or bleeding problems. Like always, check with your own provider as to whether ibuprofen and Naproxen are options for your bladder pain. Find out more under “Further Reading”.
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Phenazopyridine a.k.a the orange-pee-pill
Most everyone with IC has been prescribed some version of this class of medication. It is a urinary analgesic that works on the surface of the bladder lining, helping with urgency, burning, frequency, and discomfort. Key points are that it does not treat any actual infections, that it will turn your pee a magical orange color (and stain EVERYTHING it touches), and is not to be used for the long term (no more than 2 days) unless your doctor told you to. And, if you wear contact lenses, you will need to switch to your glasses while taking it. Check out the link in the read more section for more info.
For me personally, it never worked, but that is because I think my IC flares were triggered by pelvic floor issues. Some people who find their IC is impacted heavily by diet seem to think that this drug really helps with a flare. To each their own, each case of IC is so different!
But again, make sure you do your own research and check with your provider to make sure it is safe for YOU. Also, follow the instructions carefully to ensure you are using it properly.
You should not use phenazopyridine drugs if you have kidney disease or if you are allergic to it. To make sure phenazopyridine is safe for you, check with your doctor if you have: liver disease, diabetes, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have a genetic enzyme deficiency called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency.
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Sodium salicylate & Methenamine Combo
A less popular OTC urinary analgesic is a combination pill of sodium salicylate (a NSAID) and Methenamine (antibacterial agent). The most common brand name version is Cystex. These products are not to be used as a replacement for antibiotic therapy. If you think a UTI is causing your IC flare, go see your doctor and get a real treatment before things get out of control!
The sodium salicylate works on the bladder pain. The methenamine is included to help prevent UTI by hydrolyzing in acidic urine to ammonia and formaldehyde, which are bactericidal agents. If the thought of brewing up some formaldehyde inside your bladder freaks you out like it does me, skip this drug!
Lots of cautions for this one, so uh, be very cautious. Check with your doctor if he/she has never recommended this one to you in the past. Because there are 2 active agents in this, there seem to be twice as many warnings! Basically, if you have any liver or kidney problems, a bleeding disorder, stomach ulcers, allergies to yellow food dyes, gout, or asthma, this is not the drug for you until you get cleared by your medical team.
I have seen on some IC forums that a few people swear by it, but for me, this one just isn’t worth it.
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