My friend has recently been diagnosed with interstitial cystitis. What is it?
Interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome (IC/PBS) is a condition that results in recurring discomfort or pain in the bladder and the surrounding pelvic region. It is a painful condition due to inflammation of the tissues of the bladder wall. The cause is unknown. The condition is usually diagnosed by ruling out other conditions (such as sexually transmitted disease, bladder cancer and bladder infections). The term IC/PBS includes all cases of urinary pain that can’t be attributed to other causes, such as infection or urinary stones.
IC is frequently misdiagnosed as a urinary tract infection and patients often go years without a correct diagnosis. The condition generally occurs around age 30 to 40, although it has been reported in younger people as well. Women are 10 times more likely to have IC than men.
People may experience mild discomfort, pressure, tenderness, or intense pain in the bladder and pelvic area. Symptoms may include an urgent need to urinate, a frequent need to urinate, or a combination of these symptoms. Pain may change in intensity as the bladder fills with urine or as it empties. Women’s symptoms often get worse during menstruation. They may sometimes experience pain during vaginal intercourse.
The bladder wall may be irritated and become scarred or stiff. Pinpoint bleeding often appears on the bladder wall. Hunner’s ulcers; patches of broken skin found on the bladder wall. All these diagnoses can only be made by cystoscopy (where they insert a small scope into the bladder to see what is causing the problem).
(The column will conclude next week. The writer is a gynaecologist and obstetrician practising at Happy Women Clinic. You can write in to her at email@example.com)