Interstitial cystitis (IC)/bladder pain syndrome (BPS) is a chronic bladder health issue. It is a feeling of pain and pressure in the bladder area. Along with this pain are lower urinary tract symptoms which have lasted for more than 6 weeks, without having an infection or other clear causes. IC can affect people of any age, race or sex. It is, however, most commonly found in women. No single treatment works for all people with IC/BPS. Treatment must be chosen for each patient based on symptoms. Patients usually try different treatments (or combinations of treatments) until good symptom relief occurs.
Experts do not know exactly what causes IC/BPS, but there are many theories, such as:
- A defect in the bladder tissue, which may allow irritating substances in the urine to penetrate the bladder.
- A specific type of inflammatory cell, called a mast cell. This cell releases histamine and other chemicals that lead to IC/BPS symptoms.
- Something in the urine that damages the bladder.
- Changes in the nerves that carry bladder sensations so pain is caused by events that are not normally painful (such as bladder filling).
- The body’s immune system attacks the bladder. This is similar to other autoimmune conditions..
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms usually include one or more of the following:
- Urinating frequently. IC patients average about 16 times per day – some up to 60 times per day.
- Inability to hold much urine.
- Awaken more than once a night to urinate.
- Urge to urinate sometimes even after emptying the bladder.
- Unexplained pain and pressure in the vagina, pelvis, lower abdomen or external genitalia.
Diagnosis & Treatment
IC can affect people of any age, race or sex. It is, however, most commonly found in women. Recent data suggest there may be greater than 700,000 cases of IC in the United States. Commonly with IC, tests for bacterial urinary tract infections, other urological disorders, tumors, and sexually transmitted diseases are negative.
No single treatment works for all people with IC/BPS. Treatment must be chosen for each patient based on symptoms. Patients usually try different treatments (or combinations of treatments) until good symptom relief occurs. It is important to know that none of these IC/BPS treatments works right away. It usually takes weeks to months before symptoms improve. Even with successful treatment, the condition may not be cured. It is simply in remission. But, most patients can get significant relief of their symptoms and lead a normal life with treatment.