So many women suffer from repeated episodes of bladder problems that until recently it was considered part of the fate of women. The female urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside) was thought to be too short and close to the rectum, thus making it susceptible to repeated infections.
Pamela Sue Martin, who in the world of television played the character Fallon in Dynasty, in real life suffered from reoccurring disabling bladder pain for which no doctor seemed to offer any lasting solution. She took hundreds of antibiotic pills, often without a urine culture being done first. She abstained from sex. She had a D-and-C done by one doctor and a series of painful urethral dilations done by another.
Finally, after 12 years of trying unsuccessfully to deal with this problem, Pamela found out she was being treated for the wrong condition. She was not having repeated bacterial infections of the bladder. Rather she was experiencing a condition of the bladder known as interstitial cystitis (IC).
For Dr. Vicki Ratner, now an orthopedic surgeon, who developed an intensely painful bladder condition as a medical student, it took 11 months of desperate search and visits to ten urologists and two allergists before the diagnosis of IC was made. Along the way Dr. Ratner was also referred to a psychiatrist, an all too common experience for women who suffer from IC.
Cystitis is a confusing term, which can mean either a infection or inflammation of the bladder. Cystitis can be acute, which usually refers to an infection of the bladder that comes on suddenly, lasts for a short time and does not tend to reoccur. Chronic cystitis, on the other hand, may start off with a short bouts of cystitis, but then goes on to become a frequently reoccurring problem over a period of years.
It now appears that there are two distinct types of chronic cystitis. One is due to reoccurring bacterial infections of the bladder, which can happen for all sorts of reasons. The other is due to IC, which results from the interplay of numerous different factors.
Symptoms Of Chronic Cystitis - IC Type
IC is caused by the inflammation of the interstitium, which is the space between the bladder lining and the bladder muscle. IC is still thought of by many urologists (a specialist in the urinary tract of both men and women) to be a very rare disease, which ends up with a woman having chronic pelvic pain, urinary frequency, and a shrunken ulcerated bladder.
Recently however, the innovative research work of a Californian woman urologist named Dr. Larrain Gillespie and the educational campaign waged by Dr. Vicki Ratner and Dr. Kristene Whitmore of the Interstitial Cystitis Association, (ICA) has made the public aware that IC is in fact very common among women who suffer from chronic bladder problems.
An estimated 450,000 people in the U.S. and 50,000 in Canada have IC. Ninety percent are women. The average age of onset is 40 years old, but 25 percent of these women are under 30.
A 1987 survey of IC sufferers by the Urban Institute of Washington showed that 40 percent were unable to work; 27 percent were unable to have sex due to pain; 27 percent had marriage breakdown; 55 percent contemplated suicide as a result of living with this disease and 12 percent had actually attempted suicide.
You might by now already suspect you have this problem if your symptoms sound similar to Pamela Sue Martin's. Typically, a woman who has this problem has recurrent bladder pain and urinary frequency, but her urine cultures keep coming back normal showing no signs of bacterial infection.
During these painful episodes, a woman can feel a painful burning sensation when she passes urine. She can also have urgency which means the urgent need to go to the toilet to urinate, but little result when she does.
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