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What is Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome?

Female Urinary Tract
Female urinary tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

Interstitial cystitis (IC)/bladder pain syndrome (BPS) is a chronic bladder health issue. It is a feeling of pain and pressure in the bladder area. Along with this pain are lower urinary tract symptoms which have lasted for more than 6 weeks, without having an infection or other clear causes.

Symptoms range from mild to severe. For some patients the symptoms may come and go, and for others they don't go away. IC/BPS is not an infection, but it may feel like a bladder infection. Women with IC/BPS may feel pain when having sex.  The more severe cases of IC/BPS can affect your life and your loved ones.  Some people with IC/BPS have other health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and other pain syndromes.  

Male Urinary Tract
Male urinary tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

The bladder and kidneys are part of the urinary system, the organs in our bodies that make, store, and pass urine. You have 2 kidneys that make urine.  Then urine is stored in the bladder.  The muscles in the lower part of your abdomen hold your bladder in place.

How the Urinary System Works 

When it is not full of urine, the bladder is relaxed.  When nerve signals in your brain let you know that your bladder is getting full, you feel the need to pass urine.  If your bladder is working normally, you can put off urination for some time.    Once you are ready to pass urine, the brain sends a signal to the bladder.  Then the bladder muscles squeeze (or "contract").  This forces the urine out through the urethra, the tube that carries urine from your body.  The urethra has muscles called sphincters.  They help keep the urethra closed so urine doesn't leak before you're ready to go to the bathroom.  These sphincters relax when the bladder contracts.