Brittany Malooly
May 25, 2016 11:58 am
Instagram/Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham revealed on Instagram today that she suffers from an overactive, spasming bladder, likely a painful condition called interstitial cystitis, or IC. IC affects upwards of 700,000 Americans, 90 percent of whom are women, according to Harvard Medical School.

An excerpt from Harvard Medical School explains the severity of the condition:

“Interstitial cystitis is a chronic inflammation of the bladder that sends many women on urgent trips to the bathroom to urinate — sometimes painfully — as often as 40, 50, or 60 times a day, around the clock. The discomfort can be so excruciating and difficult to manage that only about half of women with the disorder work full time. Their quality of life, research suggests, resembles that of a person on kidney dialysis or suffering from chronic cancer pain. Not surprisingly, the condition is officially recognized as a disability.”

Anyone who has ever experienced a urinary tract infection is likely familiar with some of the symptoms — that painful, burning urination, a constant urge to pee even if you just went, pelvic discomfort — but, with IC you feel these symptoms all of the time, infection or not.

Because of the similarity of the symptoms between IC and a UTI, women can go years without a proper diagnosis. This might have been the case with Dunham, who has been vocal about her frequent urinary tract problems in the past.

The cause of IC is unknown. Mayo Clinic explains:

“People with interstitial cystitis may have a defect in the protective lining (epithelium) of the bladder. A leak in the epithelium may allow toxic substances in urine to irritate your bladder wall. Other suggested but unproven factors that may contribute to interstitial cystitis include an autoimmune reaction, heredity, infection or allergy.”

Disney / giphy.com

But, with treatment, many women can greatly improve their quality of life. One option is physical therapy, which can help relax the pelvic floor. Women are also encouraged to change their diet — some foods and drinks are known to irritate the bladder, such as anything that might contain caffeine. In this photo, Lena is taking a pill called Uribel, which is designed to ease discomfort in the urinary tract.

Many women on Instagram are thrilled Lena has brought awareness to their suffering. One user commented:

“Omg so so so happy that you’re sharing and bringing light to conditions like this. I’ve suffered from IC/pelvic dysfunction symptoms off and on for about a yr and a half now and have felt so hopeless and alone for much of it.”

We hope the strong women out there who suffer from this condition can find treatment options that work for them. Some resources for more information (there are even apps that help you find public restrooms abroad!) include ICHelp.org and IC-Network.com.

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