What you don’t know about your bladder could hurt you

Nobody wants to talk about bladders… but if you are one of the millions of people living with a painful bladder disorder, it is unavoidable.

If you’ve never heard of interstitial cystitis, you are not alone. It is pronounced in-ter-stish-uhl sĭ-stī’tĭs — IC for short. Between three and eight million women, and one to three million men in the United States have it. That’s a lot of people, but exact numbers are hard to come by because there is no single definitive test and it is often mistaken for other disorders. Diagnosis is made only after excluding other urinary/bladder conditions. The cause is not known.

IC is a chronic, often painful condition involving pressure and discomfort in the bladder and pelvic region, associated with urinary frequency and urgency, which can lead to disruption of normal activities. When health care providers are not properly educated about IC, diagnosis and appropriate treatment can be delayed for years, severely impacting quality of life. That’s exactly why health care providers and patients need information and education — and that’s where you can help.

Please lend your support to IC patients by asking the Labor-HHS-Appropriations Subcommittee to provide $660,000 for IC Education and Awareness Program in their FY11 bill.

For the past five years, Congress has provided funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote IC education and awareness. The CDC program supports much-needed healthcare provider and patient education, as well as information sharing between patients, healthcare providers, and researchers. Unfortunately, President Obama’s FY11 budget request recommends the elimination of this program.

Please urge Congress to restore federal funding for a critical interstitial cystitis (IC) program.

More about IC

The Cause: The exact cause is still unknown, but researchers have identified several factors that may contribute to the development of IC.

  • bladder trauma, such as from pelvic surgery
  • bladder overdistention
  • pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
  • autoimmune disorder
  • bacterial infection (cystitis)
  • primary neurogenic inflammation
  • spinal cord trauma
  • the possible relationship between IC and abuse (sexual, physical, and childhood sexual) is being debated after different studies yielded conflicting results.

The Symptoms: Symptoms differ from person to person, but common symptoms include

  • frequent urination — up to 60 times a day in the most severe cases.
  • sense of urgency for urination, sometimes accompanied by pain, pressure, or spasms
  • pain in the lower abdominal, urethral, or vaginal area
  • pain associated with intercourse; men may experience testicular, scrotal and/or perineal pain, and painful ejaculation

The Treatment: Most doctors and patients find that a combination of treatments works best. It is a process of trial and error that includes

  • oral medication
  • topical medication
  • bladder retraining
  • hydrodistention
  • physical therapy
  • bladder instillations
  • dietary supplements
  • electrical nerve stimulation
  • surgery
  • complementary and alternative treatments

Watch the short educational video:

Care2 Action: education and awareness for both health care providers and patients is crucial. Please Sign the Petition Asking Congress to Save Funding for Interstitial Cystitis

For more facts and information on IC, visit: Interstitial Cystitis Association


Photo: istock


Marge M.
Marge M7 years ago

very interesting article

Janice P.
Janice P7 years ago

I had a case once in which the client developed this disease. It was determined that she developed it because her employer, who always ran his office very short-handed, refused to allow her to use the rest room except during her abbreviated lunch breaks. Her constantly having to "hold it" until she could use the facilities, caused her bladder to become distended and inflamed. It was very painful for her and eventually precluded her from working.

Charmaine Lim
Past Member 7 years ago

I heard of gall bladder stones or gallstones but, I am not sure if they are similar. The pain is unbearable.

Jenny Dooley
Jenny Dooley7 years ago

Thank you Ann for this important information.
I appreciate the additional advice in the comments by Marie Watson. A million green stars!
The humour of Mike M provides balance to this otherwise serious subject. Thank you too.

Mike M.
Past Member 7 years ago

have i heard of it : no
can i say it : no
do i pee 60 times a day : no
am i a giant pain in the ass : YES

Tammy Smith
T Zabel7 years ago

Thanks! Very informative

Marie Watson
Marie Watson7 years ago

I would like to add a couple more suggestions that may help. First, toilet paper leaves behind residue and may leave little pieces of paper. These could also cause infections. I would suggest using baby wipes or wet ones after you use toilet paper for a really clean and fresh feel. Second, rather than taking antibiotic pills "after" an infection is allowed to worsen, there is a topical antibiotic cream that can be applied to the affected area at the first sign of an infection, before it spreads and goes internal to the bladder. It goes by the name of "Mupirocin" and you have to have a doctor's prescription to get it. Ask your doctor about it. This could eliminate an infection in the early stages and eliminate some trips to the doctor. As the article suggests, they haven't found "the" cause of IC as there are so many, and the treatments are dubious at most. I have found most male doctors are not very sympathetic to women's urinary problems. I went to a urologist who told me that surgery to fix the problem might make the problem worse. Women would do better to go to female gynocologist. If the IC is being cause by sexual activity, well....I have nothing to say about that. Good luck.

Maira Sun
Maira Sun7 years ago


Barb F.
Barb F7 years ago

TY for bring attention to this condition that is one to be taken seriously and be treated properly

Tessa D.
Tessa De Veras7 years ago

Good to know cos my daughter suffers from frequent urine infections, something to think about !!!