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Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic bladder condition in which patients experience bladder pressure and pain as well as pelvic pain. The pain may range from mild discomfort to severe pain.

Interstitial cystitis occurs when the signals from the brain to the bladder become mixed up, creating an urge to urinate more often and with smaller volumes of urine. The exact cause of the condition is unknown.

What are the symptoms of interstitial cystitis?

Symptoms of this condition may vary from person and change over time as well as in severity. They include:

  • Experiencing discomfort or pain when the bladder fills, followed by relief when it begins to empty
  • Experiencing pain during intercourse
  • Frequent urination day and night (typically in small amounts)
  • Pain in the pelvis or between the anus and genitals (perineum)
  • Persistent and frequent urge to urinate

What are the factors for interstitial cystitis?

Risk factors for developing interstitial cystitis include:

  • Being 30 years of age or older
  • Being female
  • Having another chronic pain disorder

How is interstitial cystitis diagnosed?

The following methods may be used for diagnosing interstitial cystitis:

  • Biopsy (during a cystoscopy) to rule out bladder cancer or other potential causes of pain
  • Cystoscopy to view the lining of the bladder
  • Hydrodistention (during a cystoscopy), a procedure in which the physician inserts liquid into the bladder to measure its capacity
  • A pelvic exam to evaluate internal organs
  • Potassium positivity test, which utilizes water and potassium chloride injections to measure pain and urgency to urinate
  • Providing a medical history of symptoms and keeping a bladder diary of urination frequency and fluid intake
  • Urine test to rule out a urinary tract infection (UTI)