If you have recurring pain in your pelvis or bladder, you probably don’t think “interstitial cystitis.” It’s a long name for a condition that can be difficult to diagnose because it can have multiple, interrelated causes.
Interstitial cystitis, or “IC,” is a chronic health issue in which patients feel pain or pressure in the bladder area. An estimated 4 million people in the U.S. suffer from IC, approximately 80 percent of them female.
Several different conditions – or combinations of conditions – can cause IC. That’s why it’s important to consult with your physician if you’re experiencing pelvic pain. A proper diagnosis may require time and you don’t want to suffer any longer than necessary.
To further complicate the diagnosis, symptoms range from mild to severe and vary from person to person. Any of the following could indicate IC:
Pain ranging from ‘nagging’ to ‘intense’ in the bladder and surrounding pelvic region
A sense of urgency and/or increased frequency of urination
Pain that worsens during menstruation
Painful sexual intercourse for women
Pain or discomfort in the scrotum or penis
For many, IC feels like a bladder infection, though antibiotics make no impact because there’s no infection to treat. The exact cause of pain with IC is actually not clear, but several theories exist. These range from an allergic response to autoimmune reaction to an excessive inflammatory response to even the slightest stimulus which would not generally be perceived as painful in a patient who does not have IC.
IC can frustrate patients because besides a challenging diagnosis, not everyone responds the same way to the same treatment. In addition, IC treatments can take several weeks to several months to provide relief.
If you suffer from pelvic pain, begin with an open discussion with your physician. Whether or not you are diagnosed with IC, you can start to work toward solutions to your condition. Treatment options, such as pharmaceuticals, nerve stimulations or surgery can be evaluated and your doctor can help you decide on the appropriate approach for you.