So many topics in the realm of IC are murky at best. The effect of aging on bladder symptoms is one of those topics. Some patients say getting older has made their symptoms worse. Others say no. Doctors have similar discrepancies, yet, not many studies have examined how age affects IC symptoms.
Survey finds worsening symptoms in time
A survey in 2015 of 100 IC patients found that most (87%) of the patients had experienced bladder symptoms by age 30 and 21% of those had bladder symptoms before age 10. The survey found that initial symptoms were milder and usually were only frequency. As symptoms progressed into more obtrusive frequency and sometimes pain and urgency incontinence, then patients saw urologists who usually diagnosed IC by around age 40.(1)
The survey, conducted by long-time IC researcher Dr. Lowell Parsons from the University of California, San Diego Medical Center, concluded that pain and urgency tend to be later symptoms of IC and diagnosing patients earlier can better affect their outcomes. The survey also found that only 5% of the patients had bladder symptoms start after age 50. The other 95% had symptoms before age 50, whether or not they were recognized and treated as such.(1)
According to Parsons, the earlier patients are treated, the better they respond to treatment; however, because it can take so long for patients to get diagnosed (in part, he says, because symptoms start out more mildly) then many patients are not being seen until they are farther along in their IC journey.(1)
Study finds less pain in older patients
A study presented at the 2018 American Urological Association meeting examining IC symptoms and age had a bit different findings. Researchers from St. Louis, Mo., looked at 225 patients diagnosed with either IC or chronic prostatitis. They divided the patients into three groups: 59 were under age 30, 120 were age 30 to 60 and 46 were over age 60.(2)
They found the most intense urologic pain was reported in the youngest patients. And patients who were 40 to 60 years old reported more systemic pain outside the pelvis, such as depression, fibromyalgia and migraines, compared to both their younger and older counterparts. The oldest group reported the least amount of non-urologic symptoms and the least intense pain of urologic symptoms.(2)
As a result, the study seems to indicate that bladder pain is worse in younger patients than in older patients. Whether that means IC is not progressive or whether it means that those diagnosed younger have more intense and systemic symptoms isn’t clear. More studies are definitely needed.
- Parsons CL. How Does Interstitial Cystitis Begin? Transl Androl Urol. Nov. 2, 2015 Volume 6, No. 4.
- Thu JH, et. al. MP39-16 Impact of Patient Age on Clinical Symptoms of Urologic Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (UCPPS). Journ of Uro. May 19, 2018. Volume 199, No. 4S.