Medicine, Procedures, Therapies

Puzzling Bladder Condition

Scientists seeking a diagnostic test have begun to identify substances unique to the urine of interstitial cystitis patients. They’ve also found that certain factors required for healthy cell growth appear to be missing from the urine, a discovery that could lead to a new therapy.


Interstitial Cystitis (IC)is a puzzling bladder condition, in which the bladder wall becomes irritated or inflamed, causing pain and frequent or painful urination. Interstitial Cystitis causes people to urinate — sometimes painfully — as often as 40, 50 or 60 times a day. Their quality of life, research suggests, resembles that of a person on kidney dialysis or suffering from chronic cancer pain. Not surprisingly, the condition is officially recognized as a disability.

The exact cause of Interstitial Cystitis remains a mystery, although researchers continue to investigate possible causes, such as unidentified bacteria, an allergic or immune system reaction, a toxic substance in the urine, or a neurological problem in the bladder wall. There also is some evidence that Interstitial Cystitis may not be just one illness, but several illnesses that share similar symptoms according to this article in the Harvard Health Publishing. 

Interstitial Cystitis usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 50. Approximately 90% of people with Interstitial Cystitis are women. It is unknown why interstitial cystitis is more common in women. The disease is not known to be genetic (inherited) or caused by toxins in the environment. 

There is no one sign or test that can tell you immediately if you have Interstitial Cystitis. Usually, doctors diagnose the condition after a person has had persistent symptoms and no other cause has been found. 

Harvard Health Publishing (HHP) is the consumer health education division of Harvard Medical School (HMS), under the direction of Dr. David H. Roberts, Dean for External Education. The publications draw on the expertise of the 11,000+ faculty physicians at HMS, as well as our world-famous affiliated hospitals, to provide authoritative, trustworthy, and actionable health information to our global audience. The content is delivered in easy-to-understand language that supports patient education and consumer engagement.

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