Interstitial cystitis

Interstitial cystitis (in-tur-STISH-ul sis-TI-tis) is a chronic condition characterized by a combination of uncomfortable bladder pressure, bladder pain and sometimes pain in your pelvis, which can range from mild burning or discomfort to severe pain.

While interstitial cystitis — also called painful bladder syndrome — can affect children and men, most of those affected are women. Interstitial cystitis can have a long-lasting adverse effect on your quality of life.

The severity of symptoms caused by interstitial cystitis often fluctuates, and some people may experience periods of remission. Although there's no treatment that reliably eliminates interstitial cystitis, a variety of medications and other therapies offer relief. The signs and symptoms of interstitial cystitis vary from person to person. If you have interstitial cystitis, your symptoms may also vary over time, periodically flaring in response to common triggers, such as menstruation, sitting for a long time, stress, exercise and sexual activity.

Interstitial cystitis symptoms include:

• Pain in your pelvis (suprapubic) or between the vagina and anus in women or between the scrotum and anus in men (perineal).
• Chronic pelvic pain.
• A persistent, urgent need to urinate.
• Frequent urination, often of small amounts, throughout the day and night. People with severe interstitial cystitis may urinate as often as 60 times a day.
• Pain during sexual intercourse.

Some people affected by interstitial cystitis experience only pain, and some experience pressure or discomfort along with frequent, urgent urination. Most affected people, however, experience both pain and frequent, urgent urination.

Although signs and symptoms of interstitial cystitis may resemble those of a chronic urinary tract infection, urine cultures are usually free of bacteria. However, a worsening of symptoms may occur if a person with interstitial cystitis gets a urinary tract infection.

When to see a doctor

If you're experiencing chronic bladder pain or urinary urgency and frequency, contact your doctor.

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