Interstitial Cystitis (IC): Causes & Symptoms
It is possible that IC is hereditary. In the U.S., IC/BPS occurs in 1 in every 30,000 women, with men affected in only 10-20% of all cases. Risk factors for this condition include emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. The condition is associated with other disorders: depression, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia (widespread muscle pain and fatigue), Sjogren’s syndrome (dry eyes and mouth, arthritis), and vulvitis (tenderness of the external genital skin). IC/BPS does not appear to affect pregnancy or the health of the fetus. This condition is not a prelude to cancer.
This condition involves the bladder, pelvic muscles, and nerves that go to these sites. Pain and pressure in the bladder and pelvis are the dominant symptoms, rather than incontinence, which is more associated with another condition called “overactive bladder.” Urine cultures are negative, which distinguishes IC/BPS from yet another common condition, “chronic bacterial cystitis” (repeat episodes of urinary infections).
The exact cause of IC/BPS is unknown, but several theories are offered:
- The bladder lining becomes leaky and allows urine to seep into the bladder wall and cause damage.
- Most cells are often seen in the bladder, suggesting a possible allergic reaction related to the release of histamine.
- The nerve endings to the bladder have become hypersensitive.
It is an autoimmune disease; i.e., the body’s immune system attacks the bladder. IC/BPS does not appear to be caused by bacterial urinary infections.