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Bladder Disorder - Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome)

Defining Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a reoccurring bladder condition that can cause mild to severe pain. Discomforting symptoms that can accompany IC include an inflamed and irritated bladder, which can cause the bladder to stiffen and scar; smaller bladder capacity; and blood in the urine. In serious cases of IC, the symptoms can make ordinary daily tasks impossible. In the United States, there are over 700,000 people diagnosed with IC. Most sufferers are 30 and 40 years old, and most are women.

Possible Causes of IC

The root causes of IC are unclear, but studies are being conducted to gather data to manufacture effective treatments that will relieve its symptoms. These studies show that people with IC have matter lining the inside wall of their bladder that is interfering with the normal growth of cells. Continuous research of the bladder wall is expected to reveal the causes of IC. Data shows that IC is not an inherited condition, however, there is a mother–daughter connection, which indicates that genes could be responsible for some instances of IC.

Symptoms of IC

Here are some symptoms of IC:

  • inflamed and irritated bladder
  • mild discomfort during urination
  • pressure and tenderness in the bladder and pelvic area
  • intense feeling to urinate
  • frequent urination
  • pain, the severity of which is dependent on the bladder’s fullness

For women, the discomfort increases during menstruation, and pain is often felt during sex. It is important to note that not all symptoms are the same for all patients, and that symptoms can change with time.

Diagnosing IC

To determine if you have IC, your doctor can test and rule out diseases that have symptoms similar to IC, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney stones, endometriosis, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and bladder cancer. These tests are usually of the patient’s urine, bladder, and urinary tract. During a urine culture, the urine is examined with a microscope and checked for germs that may be similar to a UTI or STD. The urine for testing is acquired through the use of either a catheter or sterile container. Using a sterile container is referred to as a “clean catch,” where the genitals are cleaned before the urine is collected midstream. A cytoscopy is a test performed on the bladder when checking for bladder cancer. For a better view of the bladder, this test might be conducted with bladder distention, meaning that the patient’s bladder is filled with water and distended. A cytoscopy, which is usually an outpatient procedure, checks for inflammation, thickness, or stiffness in the bladder wall; bleeding; ulcers; and total bladder capacity. To ascertain whether cancer is present in the bladder, samples of the bladder and urethra tissues might be extracted during the cystoscopy.

Curing IC

To date, a cure for IC has not been found, and it is not possible to know what is the best treatment option for each individual. Symptoms sometimes dissipate through treatment or a diet alteration, or they go away through no apparent cause. However, IC is a chronic condition, and symptoms often return.

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Dr. Aguirre
Dr. Aguirre is the Director of Aguirre Specialty Care, The Center for Female Pelvic Medicine. Dr. Aguirre is also a member of the Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute of America.
The Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute of America is founded and directed by Dr. David L. Matlock.

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