IC is recurring pelvic pain, pressure, or discomfort in the bladder and pelvic region, often associated with urinary frequency (needing to go often) and urgency (feeling a strong need to go).
IC can affect anyone. More than 4 million people in the US have IC:
- Women: 3 to 8 million
- Men: 1 to 4 million
- Children: prevalence data are not known
Patients with interstitial cystitis experience “an unpleasant sensation (pain, pressure, discomfort) perceived to be related to the urinary bladder” that lasts longer than six weeks in the absence of infection or other identifiable causes. The symptoms can vary greatly between individuals and even for the same person throughout the month, including urinary frequency, urgency, nocturia, pressure and/or pelvic pain. People with severe cases of IC/BPS may urinate as many as 60 times a day.
Physicians may refer to IC with a variety of names, including: bladder pain syndrome (Europe), hypersensitive bladder syndrome (Japan), urologic chronic pelvic pain syndrome (research studies) or chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS). In the United States, it is commonly referred to as IC/BPS.
Pain levels can range from mild tenderness to intense, agonizing pain. Pain typically worsens as the bladder fills with urine and is then relieved after urination. Pain may also radiate to the lower back, upper legs, vulva and penis. Women’s symptoms may fluctuate with their menstrual cycle, often flaring during ovulation and/or just before their periods. Men and women may experience discomfort during or after sexual relations.
When an IC bladder is closely examined during a hydrodistention with cystoscopy, physicians often find small, bleeding wounds, also known as petechial hemorrhages or glomerulations. About five to ten percent of patients may have larger, more painful wounds known as Hunner’s Ulcers. Some patients with mild IC may have bladders that appear normal during a cystoscopy.