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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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Interstitial Cystitis

Who Gets Interstitial Cystitis?

As many as 90% of people with IC are women. Somewhere between about 3% to 6% of adult women have some form of IC. That’s about 3 million to 8 million American women. About 1.3% of American men also have it.

On average, people first start having problems in their 40s. The risk of getting it goes up as you get older.

What Causes IC?

It’s not clear why it happens, but there are several ideas:

  • A problem with bladder tissue lets things in your pee irritate your bladder.
  • Inflammation causes your body to release chemicals that cause symptoms.
  • Something in your urine damages your bladder.
  • A nerve problem makes your bladder feel pain from things that usually don’t hurt.
  • Your immune system attacks the bladder.
  • Another condition that causes inflammation is also targeting the bladder.

How Is It Diagnosed?

There’s no test for interstitial cystitis. If you go to your doctor complaining about bladder pain along with frequency and the urgency to pee, the next step is to rule out what else it could be.

Both men and women would first need to rule out urinary tract infections, bladder cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, and kidney stones.

In women, endometriosis is another possibility. For men, IC can be mistaken for an inflamed prostate or chronic pelvic pain syndrome.

These tests can rule out other conditions:

  • Urinalysis and urine culture. You’ll be asked to pee in a cup. It’ll be sent to a lab to check for infection.
  • Postvoid residual urine volume. Using an ultrasound, this test measures the amount of pee that remains in your bladder after you go to the bathroom.
  • Cystoscopy. A thin tube with a camera is used to see the inside of the bladder and urethra. This is usually done only if there is blood in your pee or if treatment doesn’t help.
  • Bladder and urethra biopsy. A small piece of tissue is taken and tested. This is usually done during cystoscopy.
  • Bladder stretching. Your bladder is filled with liquid or gas to stretch it out. You’ll be asleep under anesthesia. Sometimes this is also used as a treatment. This is done with a cystoscopy.
  • Prostate fluid culture (in men). Your doctor will need to press on your prostate and milk a sample to test. This is not commonly done.

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