Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How Interstitial Cystitis Affected My Allergies

I know it is easy to focus on all the stuff that is bad when you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, but there are often some positive changes that can happen as we make this journey. This time of year I am reminded that because of the hydroxyzine (Atarax) I take on a daily basis for interstitial cystitis (IC), I no longer have problems with the terrible allergies I suffered with my whole life. 

For example, I never could be around most animals. I love them, but being around cats in particular was a nightmare. My eyes would swell shut and I would cough and sneeze as though I had the worst cold or flu. I had a hard time visiting my family members who had cats and I know that strained relationships at that time. We had two "hypoallergenic" dogs as a part of our family for years (a poodle and a Bichon Frise), but never any cats.
Shortly after starting hydroxyzine, however, my daughter brought a kitten home from college. (That's a story for another day!) and we ended up with our first cat. I didn't think about it until much later, but she really didn't bother me. And then a couple of years later after we lost one of our dogs, we adopted our second kitten, Diego.

I also suffered from fall goldenrod allergies (hay fever) to the point of ending up in the urgent care and even ER year after year. I got more cortisone shots than I care to remember and the doctors had me on twice the recommended dose of allergy medications for years. Like with animals, I was miserable. My eyes and ears were also affected. I can remember a time in high school when my ears itched so badly I cried myself to sleep at night. I scratched my corneas twice because I was rubbing my eyes so much. And this misery doesn't come close to the embarrassment of starting school each year feeling like everyone around me was avoiding me like I had the plague.

How are allergies and interstitial cystitis related?

After I started hydroxyzine, however, I went through my first hay fever season and barely noticed because I was so focused on getting my painful bladder under control. But by the second fall, I realized I had no itchy ears, no swollen eyes, and I hadn't run to Costco for a case of tissue. It took me a bit to figure out the connection, but indeed, the antihistamine that was keeping the mast cells in my bladder under control was also extremely effective at controlling my other allergies. Considering all I had been through with my allergies, this was a fairly good trade off in my mind!

I know people reading this are at different stages of acceptance with this disease, and I want you to know I understand this is not an article to discount what you are feeling. But as you work through adjusting to your illness, hopefully the rest of you find a couple of lessons in this as well. Look for the silver linings. (I almost used the title of making lemonade out of lemons but you all would have called me out on that one.) There may be things that are actually enriching your life as you navigate this crazy business. Maybe you have more empathy for others than you used to. Maybe you are more motivated to get healthier in other ways. Maybe you have found different ways to attend to your family that are more intimate and deliberate than just going through the motions. Or maybe you can have cats in your home.

Let me know if you have some silver linings from being an IC patient. I would love to hear your positive stories.

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Author, Speaker, Patient Advocate

For step by step guidance for creating your own personal interstitial cystitis meal plan, see: Confident Choices®: Customizing the Interstitial Cystitis Diet.

For some basic, family-style, IC bladder-friendly recipes, see: Confident Choices®: A Cookbook for Interstitial Cystitis and Overactive Bladder