Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Painful Bladder Condition Often Goes Undiagnosed In Women

Woman-stomach-painMillions of Americans—most of them women—suffer from a bladder condition known as interstitial cystitis. According to a new study of this disorder, fewer than 10% of women with symptoms of interstitial cystitis are actually diagnosed with the disorder, even though it severely affects their lives. Without a proper diagnosis, women with interstitial cystitis are missing out on treatments that might bring them some relief.

As I describe in an article in the August 2011 issue of the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, interstitial cystitis is a chronic bladder condition that causes recurring bouts of pain and pressure in the bladder and pelvic area. Individuals with the condition usually have an urgent and frequent need to urinate—sometimes as often as 60 times a day. The pain and discomfort can be so excruciating that only about half of people with interstitial cystitis work full-time.

Researchers with the federally funded RAND Interstitial Cystitis Epidemiology (RICE) study surveyed nearly 150,000 households in the United States between 2007 and 2009. Based on data gathered during follow-up interviews, the RICE researchers estimated that 3% to 7% of American women have bladder symptoms that could be interstitial cystitis. (The researchers focused on women because women develop interstitial cystitis about eight times more than men do.) That translates into three to eight million women possibly affected—far more than health experts thought.

Most of the women with symptoms of interstitial cystitis who were interviewed had seen one or more clinicians, and almost half had gotten a diagnosis of some kind. But only 9.7% were diagnosed with interstitial cystitis. The findings were published in the August 2011 Journal of Urology.

Just this spring, the American Urological Association published the first-ever clinical guidelines for diagnosing and treating interstitial cystitis. There’s little consensus on the best ways to treat this condition. But several approaches, alone or in combination, have been shown to help. These include:

  • psychosocial support
  • behavior changes, such as avoiding foods or activities that cause flare-ups
  • medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants (which relax the bladder) and Elmiron (the only medication specifically approved by the FDA for treating interstitial cystitis)
  • specialized physical therapy

You can read the entire Harvard Women’s Heart Watch article on interstitial cystitis here.

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »