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What Is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC), one of the chronic pelvic pain disorders, is a condition resulting in recurring discomfort or pain in the bladder and the surrounding pelvic region. The symptoms of IC vary from case to case and even in the same individual. People may experience mild discomfort, pressure, tenderness, or intense pain in the bladder and surrounding pelvic area. Symptoms may include an urgent need to urinate (urgency), frequent need to urinate (frequency), 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.

In IC, the bladder wall may be irritated and become scarred or stiff. Glomerulations (pinpoint bleeding caused by recurrent irritation) may appear on the bladder wall. Some people with IC find that their bladders cannot hold much urine, which increases the frequency of urination. Frequency, however, is not always specifically related to bladder size; many people with severe frequency have normal bladder capacity. People with severe cases of IC may urinate as many as 60 times a day.

Also, people with IC often experience pain during sexual intercourse. IC is far more common in women than in men. Of the more than 700,000 Americans estimated to have IC, 90 percent are women.

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