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Diseases & Conditions

Diagnosing and treating interstitial cystitis

March 25, 2020

Also called painful bladder syndrome, this frustrating disorder disproportionately affects women.

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic bladder condition that causes recurring bouts of pain and pressure in the bladder and pelvic area, often accompanied by an urgent and frequent need to urinate — sometimes as often as 40, 50, or 60 times a day, around the clock. Discomfort associated with interstitial cystitis can be so excruciating that, according to surveys, only about half of people with the disorder work full-time. Because symptoms are so variable, experts today describe interstitial cystitis as a member of a group of disorders collectively referred to as interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome. (In this article, we'll call it interstitial cystitis, or IC.)

Among the one to two million Americans with IC, women outnumber men by as much as eight to one, and most are diagnosed in their early 40s. Several other disorders are associated with IC, including allergies, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia (a condition causing muscle pain), chronic fatigue syndrome, and vulvodynia (pain or burning in the vulvar area that isn't caused by infection or skin disease).

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