The symptoms of IC/BPS vary for each patient, but the most common sign is pain (often with pressure). Patients with IC/BPS may have bladder pain that gets worse as the bladder fills. Some patients feel pain in other areas in addition to the bladder, such as the urethra, lower abdomen, lower back, or the pelvic or perineal area (in women, behind the vagina and in men, behind the scrotum). Women may feel pain in the vulva or the vagina, and men may feel the pain in the scrotum, testicle, or penis. The pain may be constant or may come and go.
IC/BPS sometimes starts with urinary frequency. Frequency is the need to pass urine more often than normal. The average person urinates no more than 7 times a day. He or she does not have to get up at night more than once to use the bathroom. A patient with IC/BPS often has to urinate frequently both day and night. As frequency becomes more severe, it leads to urgency.
Urgency to urinate is a common IC/BPS symptom. Some patients feel an urge that never goes away, even right after voiding. A patient may not notice or see this as a problem. In other cases, the onset is much more dramatic, with severe symptoms occurring within days, weeks or months.
Many patients with IC/BPS can point to certain things that make their symptoms worse. For some, their symptoms are made worse by certain foods or drinks. Many patients find that symptoms are worse if they are under stress (either physical or mental). For women, the symptoms may vary with their period. Both men and women with IC/BPS can have sexual problems due to this health issue. Women may have pain during sex because the bladder is right in front of the vagina. Men may have painful orgasm or pain the next day. It is unusual to experience leaking of urine with this disorder, and urinary leaking might be a sign of another problem.
Who Gets IC/BPS?
Because there is no standard technique to diagnose IC/BPS, it is often hard to estimate the number of people affected. IC/BPS is typically 2 to 3 times more in common in women than in men, and data have shown the risk of IC/BPS increases with age.
The current estimate is that 1 to 4 million men and 3 to 8 million women have symptoms of IC/BPS. But the difference between men and women may not really be as high as we think, because some men diagnosed with "prostatitis" (swelling of the gland that makes semen in men) or similar conditions with different labels may really have IC/BPS. At this time, there is no evidence that stress causes IC/BPS in the first place. However, it is well-known that if a person has IC, physical or mental stress can make the symptoms worse.
How IC/BPS Can Affect Your Life
IC/BPS can get in the way of your social life, exercise and sleep, and can cause a great deal of distress. Without treatment, IC/BPS symptoms make it hard to get through your day or even be able to work. IC/BPS may affect your relationship with your spouse and family. It can also rob you of a good night's sleep. Too little sleep will leave you tired and unhappy.