You might know it as painful bladder syndrome or a hypersensitive bladder, but under its official title, interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic inflammation that causes bladder pain and discomfort. The pain is known to range from mild discomfort to severe.
“Experts have argued over the exact language and terminology for IC for almost 150 years, which means there’s still a lot of confusion for patients and practitioners,” said Nicole Cozean and Jesse Cozean, authors of The Interstitial Cystitis Solution. The exact cause of interstitial cystitis isn’t known, but it’s likely that several factors that contribute to it. If you are experiencing any of these 12 signs, it is probable you have interstitial cystitis.
12. You Visit the Bathroom More Than 7 Times a Day
The average adult pees between six to seven times a day depending on the water intake of an individual, but more than that could be a sign of a bladder problem. “Patients with this syndrome may be tempted to rationalize it away with excuses such as, ‘I drink a lot of water,’ ‘I’m going just in case,’ or ‘I must have a small bladder,'” said the Cozeans. There is no need to make excuses for a medical condition you think you might have–95 percent of people with IC often look for restrooms.
11. Your Pants Are Uncomfortable
The authors mentioned that every IC patient surveyed described pain above the bladder, just a few inches below the belly button. The pain may become worse as the bladder gets full, which could explain why you feel the need to go to the restroom so often. In other words, an empty bladder means less pain. “In some cases, the region can be so tender that even waistband pressure can be unbearable,” said the authors.
10. The Urge to Go Comes On Quickly
Aside from the frequent trips to the bathroom, IC patients can also experience an urgent need when nature calls. So, running to the restroom when it’s time to go is expected. “If your bladder empties in less time, it wasn’t full, and you are experiencing urinary urgency,” the authors wrote.
9. You’re Feeling Pee Shy
While people with IC feel the urgent need to use the bathroom, nothing may come out once they’re there. This is partly due because their bladders weren’t full enough to require a potty stop; however, this is also a muscle problem. IC causes the pelvic floor muscles to tighten, thus making it difficult to relax and pee. Not to mention, IC patients tend to suffer from anxiety about bathroom breaks, causing a shy bladder.
8. Your Bladder Never Feels Empty
Despite frequent urination, IC patients often feel like they can never get to an empty bladder. For certain people, this could be due to a tight pelvic floor muscle that makes it difficult for the bladder to contract to get out all of the urine. However, for others, the bladder might be so sensitive that they feel they still need to go, even though they’ve already gone.Related: 1 Things You Should Know About Peeing
7. Your Bladder Always Feels Full
Bladder tightness and compression are some of the symptoms often described by patients who feel they constantly have a full bladder. People also mention that they feel pressure a few inches below their belly button. If left untreated, a dull pressure could turn into severe pain.
6. Your Bladder Hurts Like Crazy
Extreme pain in the urethra or around the bladder could be a symptom of IC. “Patients have described it as a twisting knife, an acidic kind of burning, or the feeling that there is ground glass in the bladder and urethra,” the authors wrote.
5. Bathroom Breaks Get in the Way of Your Sleep
Getting up during the night to go to the bathroom is normal; however, getting up multiple times could be a sign you may have IC. When you sleep, your bladder is slowly and constantly filling. Normally people don’t notice until it’s full, but for people with IC and a sensitive bladder, the sensation is present. “The slow trickle of urine into the bladder can be enough that the body interprets it as a ‘wake up and go’ signal,” the authors wrote.
4. Restroom Visits Cause Burning
While urinating, or afterward, people with IC can experience urethral pain. There is no official explanation for the burning sensation, but some say issues with pelvic floor muscles could irritate the muscles and nerves controlling how urine passes. Others mention that the lining of the bladder or urethra gets damaged, thus letting in toxins that hurt as they pass.
3. You Leak Before You Get There
Nearly half of IC patients experience incontinence, even if seldomly. A reason this occurs is that with an urgent need to urinate, the bladder spasms. With a weakened pelvic floor, it can be difficult to hold urine in. Pressure caused by coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting a heavy object can cause IC patients to leak.
2. Sex Has Become Painful
Pain during sex is a classic symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction. Some women with IC experience pain in the vagina, bladder, or urethra–sometimes all three–after having sex. The pain can last for several days. Men are also prone to experience pain in the testicles, penis, urethra, or bladder, either during erection or ejaculation.
1. Your Pelvis Is in Pain
Since pelvic floor muscles are overactive or tight for people with IC, they can also experience pelvic pain. The pain can be felt in the perineum or rectum, or women’s vaginas and men’s penises or scrotums.
Nicole Cozean, PT, DPT, WCS, CSCS, founded the PelvicSanity clinic in Laguna Hills, California, that provides physical therapy to people with pelvic pain. Cozean is also on the board of directors of the Interstitial Cystitis Association. Jesse Cozean, MBA, is a medical researcher and author who designed and oversaw clinical trials of drugs. They are both authors of the book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution.Related: Pee Smelling Odd?