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Interstitial Cystitis (IC)

Interstitial cystitis (IC), is a chronic inflammatory condition also known as “painful bladder syndrome” or “frequency-urgency-dysuria syndrome,” is a complex, chronic disorder. People with interstitial cystitis have an inflamed or irritated bladder wall. This inflammation causes bladder pain and can lead to scarring and stiffening of the bladder, decreased bladder capacity, pinpoint bleeding and, in rare cases, ulcers in the bladder lining.

About 90% of IC patients are women. While people of any age can be affected, about two-thirds of patients are in their twenties, thirties, or forties. IC is rare in children. In a few cases, IC has afflicted both mother and daughter, but there is no evidence that the disorder is hereditary, or genetically passed from parent to child.

Causes of Interstitial Cystitis (IC)

No one knows what causes interstitial cystitis, some people are diagnosed with IC after a presumed urinary tract infection and a course of antibiotics as symptoms do not go away after treatment. It is possible that the urinary tract infection triggered an autoimmune response against the bladder; or that the patient's original symptoms were from IC all along and it could be that the infecting organism was in the bladder cells, but was not detectable through routine tests done for UTIs.

The symptoms of interstitial cystitis vary from one person to another and many of the symptoms are similar to those of a urinary tract infection.

There is no cure for interstitial cystitis, so the goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.  Often one treatment works well for a period of time and then offers no relief.  Symptoms may disappear and may return after days, weeks, months or years.

Treatments include local instillation of numbing medications, oral medications to reduce the irritating elements of the bladder, antihistamines, pain medications, and medications to reduce the spasms associated with IC. 

IC triggers

There is no scientific evidence linking diet to IC, but some doctors and patients believe that alcohol, tomatoes, spices, chocolate, caffeinated and citrus beverages, and high-acid foods may contribute to bladder irritation and inflammation. Some patients also notice a worsening of symptoms after eating or drinking products containing artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately this is trial and error.

Smoking tends to worsen symptoms and improves for many after they quit.

Pregnancy and IC

Researchers have little information about pregnancy and IC, but believe that the disorder does not affect fertility or the health of the fetus. Some women have a remission from IC during pregnancy, while others have more pain and pressure during the third trimester, possibly due to the weight of the fetus on the bladder.

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