Interstitial cystitis is chronic inflammation of the bladder. People who have interstitial cystitis have a bladder wall that is inflamed and irritated (red and sore). This inflammation can scar the bladder or make it stiff. A stiff bladder can't expand as urine fills it. In some cases, the walls of the bladder may bleed slightly. A few people get sores in the bladder lining. More than 3 million American women and 1 million men have interstitial cystitis.
People who have interstitial cystitis may have the following symptoms:
For many women, the symptoms get worse before their menstrual period. Stress may also make the symptoms worse, but it doesn't cause them.
Doctors don't know exactly what causes interstitial cystitis. However, they do know that it isn't caused by bacterial or viral infections.
A defect in the lining of the bladder might cause interstitial cystitis. Normally, the lining protects the bladder wall from the toxic effects of urine. In about 70% of the people who have interstitial cystitis, the protective layer of the bladder is "leaky." This may let urine irritate the bladder wall, causing interstitial cystitis.
Other possible causes may be an increase of histamine-producing cells in the bladder wall or an autoimmune response (when antibodies are made that act against a part of the body).
Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history. He or she may also ask you to keep track of how much fluid you drink, how often your urinate and how much urine you pass.
Your doctor will rule out other diseases such as urinary tract infections, bladder cancer, endometriosis, kidney stones, sexually transmitted infections, chronic prostatitis in men and vaginal infections in women.
Your doctor may also refer you to a urologist (a doctor whose specialty is problems of the urinary tract). The urologist may use a special scope (called a cytoscope) to look inside your bladder for inflammation, pinpoint bleeding or ulcers. These things could indicate that you have interstitial cystitis.
There is no cure for interstitial cystitis. You may need to try several treatments or a combination of treatments before you notice an improvement in your symptoms. Most people feel better after trying one or more of the following treatments:
Interstitial Cystitis: Urgency and Frequency Syndrome by JF Metts (American Family Physician October 01, 2001, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20011001/1199.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff