GAG is short for Glycosaminoglycans. Normally, the inner wall of the bladder is coated with GAGs that are secreted from cells of the bladder lining. Like other organs, the bladder's inner surface is lined with epithelial cells. This mucus-like layer or GAG protects the epithelial cells, by preventing acids and toxins in the urine from coming in contact with this layer of tissue.
|Source: Women's Health Matters|
When a person has interstitial cystitis (IC), these epithelial cells become irritated and inflamed. Areas of pinpoint bleeding called glomerulations, or larger sores, called Hunner's ulcers, may appear in the lining of the bladder.
- An unidentified infection, possibly a viral infection, may disrupt the GAG layer or damage the wall directly.
- Some substance in the urine may be causing the damage. Free radicals, environmental toxins, certain foods, bacterial toxins and certain drugs (e.g. antibiotics and radiation) may contribute to GAG and epithelium damage in the bladder.
- After initially responding to a bladder infection, the body's immune system may have begun to attack the bladder's tissues or the GAG layer.
- Stress may play a role, it can suppress the immune system, allowing pathogens to take hold and cause damage. Moreover, dietary absorption of nutrients may be reduced, potentially reducing the availability of raw materials for the GAG layer.
- Immune system cells, called mast cells, have been found in higher concentrations in the bladder walls of a patient with IC. These cells release histamines, which may be partly responsible for the inflammation of the bladder wall.
Tips to improve the GAG layer: