Interstitial cystitis (IC), also called painful bladder syndrome, is a breakdown in the normal protective lining of the bladder wall. When this surface lining is damaged, urinary chemicals can leak into the surrounding tissues causing pain, inflammation and increased urinary frequency.
The symptoms of IC are similar to a urinary tract infection, but lack an identifiable cause such as bacterial infection. IC is thought to affect up to 12% of women.
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While the cause of IC is unknown, the condition generally occurs between the ages of 30 and 40 and has been reported in younger people. Also, women are 10 times more likely to have IC than men.
IC symptoms vary not only from patient to patient but also from one day to the next in a single individual. Similar to those of a urinary tract infection, some common IC symptoms include:
The diagnosis of IC is based on the presence of the characteristic pattern of symptoms of urgency, frequency and/or pelvic pain in any combination and is frequently misdiagnosed as a urinary tract infection. For this reason, there is, on average, a four-year delay between the time the first symptoms occur and the diagnosis is made. The diagnosis is made by ruling out other causes. Tests include:
The key principle in treating IC is to use multiple therapies to control whatever is causing the symptoms. Patients with mild IC may not need much therapy and sometimes diet modification or stress reduction can help. Those with a severe condition may require more therapies, including:
Following a healthy diet is important to avoiding future episodes of interstitial cystitis.