The Myth: We should wait for a 'cure' for interstitial cystitis.
The Truth: Conditions can be treated, managed and improved, but for the majority of conditions a 'cure' doesn't exist - think about diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, allergies, fibromyalgia, chronic migraines, osteoporosis, IBS, and more. The idea of waiting for a cure is passive, and implies that there's nothing in your power to improve your situation.
“A cure is a substance or procedure that ends a medical condition."
Myth Origin: This is more a myth of modern Western medicine and pharmaceutical companies than of anything specific to interstitial cystitis. We are habituated by drug commercials and medical dramas (that neatly 'solve' the toughest cases in a 30-minute time block) into thinking about a single pill or surgery that works for everyone and permanently cures all symptoms. We reinforce this myth whenever we talk about searching for a 'cure.'
Debunking the Myth: In truth, true 'cures' for a condition are incredibly rare. We've cured some diseases with vaccinations, which provide the blueprint to allow our own immune system to fight off the disease later in life. We can cure some acute infections (including bacterial, fungal, and parasites) with antibiotics. And....that's about it.
The vast majority of medical conditions are treated instead of cured, and those treatments often involve making healthier lifestyle choices in addition to medication or surgery. Treatment is designed to allow the body to heal itself. Diet, exercise, sleep, and other healthy habits can allow the body to begin that healing work.
The most prevalent conditions we deal with all can be managed - often so well they don't even have a daily impact for many patients - but not cured. Think about heart disease and stroke, which requires changes to diet and exercise while cutting out negative factors like smoking or alcohol consumption. Or arthritis, which affects one-quarter of Americans and is treated with physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, and lifestyle changes. Or diabetes, where the condition is primarily controlled through diet.
On average in the United States, a new drug takes 12 years to go from concept to FDA approval, and costs one billion dollars. For interstitial cystitis, with a relatively small number of diagnosed patients, it may not even make financial sense for companies to research and study a drug.
Impact of the Myth: Feeling like there must be a 'cure' is disempowering. There is so much that can be done for IC right now; as we say in The IC Solution, thousands of people live healthy, happy lives with IC, and our focus should be on what we do know, and what we can do.
Healing is a journey; there isn't a quick fix, but there is hope. And the result is sustainable when you reach your goals. Everyone is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach, but you can find what works for you.
Read on to find out the truth about these myths, and feel free to join the online Facebook community Finding Pelvic Sanity for support and resources!
Dr. Nicole Cozean is the founder of PelvicSanity physical therapy, Orange County's premier pelvic floor physical therapy clinic. Nicole was named the 2017 IC Physical Therapist of the Year, was the first PT to serve on the ICA Board of Directors, and is the author of the award-winning book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution (2016). She is an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Chapman University.