What is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial Cystitis is a chronic pain condition that affects the bladder. Many experts now call it bladder pain syndrome (BPS). Symptoms of IC/BPS include:

  • Pain or discomfort believed to be related to the bladder, which often gets worse as the bladder fills.
  • Feeling as if you need to urinate right away, often, or both. Most people urinate between 4 and 7 times a day. A bladder affected by IC/BPS holds less urine. So someone with severe IC/BPS could urinate as often as 30 times per day.
  • Pain, pressure, or tenderness in the pelvic area and/or genitals.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse, or pain during ejaculation for men.
  • Ulcers and/or bleeding in the bladder.
  • However, these symptoms vary from person to person and can change over time. Women’s symptoms often get worse during their menstrual periods. Some people with IC/BPS feel only mild discomfort, while others have severe pain and symptoms.

Who is at risk?

  • More than 1.3 million Americans have IC/BPS, while some studies suggest that millions more may have the symptoms.
  • About 8 out of 10 people with IC/BPS are women.
  • Most people diagnosed with IC/BPS are middle aged.

What are the causes?

No one knows what the exact causes of IC/BPS are. However, the following factors may play a role:

  • A defect in the bladder wall which allows substances in the urine to irritate the bladder.
  • A specific type of cell that releases histamine and other chemicals, which in turn lead to symptoms of IC/BPS.
  • Something in the urine that damages the bladder.
  • Changes in the nerves that carry bladder sensations, making normal events, such as the bladder filling, painful.
  • The body’s immune system attacks the bladder.

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