What is interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome)?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic (long-lasting) bladder condition that causes discomfort and/or pain in the bladder or pelvic region. The bladder walls become inflamed and irritated, which causes the bladder to become very sensitive.

IC can cause scarring and stiffness in the bladder. When the bladder is stiff, it can’t expand as it normally does when it is filled with urine. The walls of the bladder may also get sores and bleed.

Who gets interstitial cystitis?

Men, women, and children of all ages are diagnosed with IC. An estimated 700,000 to 1 million Americans currently suffer from the disease; 80% of people diagnosed with IC are women.

What are the symptoms of interstitial cystitis (IC)?

Symptoms of IC vary from case to case, and can be mild, severe, occasional, or constant. The symptoms may be similar to those of a bladder infection. Women’s symptoms often get worse during menstrual periods.

Symptoms of IC include the following:

  • Abdominal or pelvic discomfort
  • Pain, pressure, and/or discomfort coming from the bladder
  • Having to urinate frequently
  • Passing only a small amount of urine
  • Pressure in the abdomen and/or pelvis
  • In men, discomfort in the penis and/or scrotum
  • Lower abdominal pain that gets worse as the bladder fills
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

What causes interstitial cystitis?

The causes for IC are not completely understood. IC may be related to such medical conditions as:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Allergies
  • Defects in the lining of the bladder
  • Vascular (blood vessel) disease
  • Mast cell abnormalities
  • Presence of abnormal substances in the urine
  • Unidentified infections

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