Aptly nicknamed “painful bladder syndrome”, interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic or long-term condition that causes mild to moderate to severe pain in the bladder and pelvic region. Symptoms may come and go and often mimic a bladder infection even though there’s no infection present. IC affects as many as 12 million people in the US. It’s often misdiagnosed since the symptoms are sometimes similar to other conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, urinary tract infection, and bladder prolapse.
Symptoms of IC vary in frequency and severity. Some people experience symptoms nearly nonstop while others may go for long periods between symptomatic bouts of IC. Typical symptoms include:
The exact cause of IC is unknown, but researchers have identified a number of different factors that may contribute to the development of the condition. These theories include:
While not causative, there are some lifestyle habits that may worsen the symptoms, such as eating citrus fruits or undergoing significant stress at home or work. Many women also find the symptoms worsen during menstruation or after they’ve spent long periods sitting, such as on a long trip.
Foods that commonly worsen IC symptoms include:
There is no cure for IC, but there are effective treatments for controlling many of the symptoms. A combination of therapies is recommended for most patients. Management options involve diet and other lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, medicines, neuro-stimulation, and alternative treatments.
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