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Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis (IC), often called painful bladder syndrome, is a tricky condition. It’s tough to diagnose, and though treatments can make life with it better, there’s no cure.

Because IC has such a wide range of symptoms and severity, most experts think it might be several diseases. If you have urinary pain that lasts for more than 6 weeks and is not caused by other conditions like infection or kidney stones, you may have IC.

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No matter what it’s called, interstitial cystitis symptoms bring a lot of challenges. The disease can affect your social life, exercise, sleep, and even your ability to work.

Despite this, you can still arm yourself with facts and treatments to keep symptoms in check.

What Is It?

IC is a chronic bladder problem. Your bladder holds pee after your kidneys have filtered it but before you pee it out. This condition causes pain and pressure below your belly button. Symptoms can come and go. Or they may be constant.

Interstitial cystitis causes urgent, often painful bathroom trips. You may have to pee as many as 40-60 times a day in severe cases. It can even keep you up at night.

What Are the Symptoms?

These vary from person to person with IC. They can change every day or week or linger for months or years. They might even go away without any treatment.

Common symptoms:

  • Bladder pressure and pain that gets worse as your bladder fills up.
  • Pain in your lower tummy, lower back, pelvis, or urethra (the tube that carries pee from your bladder out of your body)
  • For women, pain in the vulva, vagina, or the area behind the vagina
  • For men, pain in the scrotum, testicles, penis, or the area behind the scrotum
  • The need to pee often (more than the normal 7-8 times daily)
  • The feeling you need to pee right now, even right after you go
  • For women, pain during sex
  • For men, pain during orgasm or after sex

The bladder pain people feel with IC can range from a dull ache to piercing pain. Peeing may feel like just a little sting, or it can feel like serious burning.

All people with it have an inflamed bladder. About 5% to 10% of people get ulcers in their bladder.

Things that might make symptoms worse:

  • Some foods or drinks
  • Mental or physical stress
  • Your period
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