1. Chronic pelvic pain is not just "all in your head," but the brain does have a role to play
Its not uncommon for patients with a chronic illness to be told "it's all in your head." Well now you can use MAPP data to respond! MAPP research shows that patients with pain and urinary symptoms have differences in brain activity and structure than volunteers without these symptoms. Men with chronic prostatitis, for example, showed different brain activity in the area that controls the pelvic muscles. MAPP's current study has participants complete MRI scans so that we can continue looking into these differences.
2. You are more than one symptom score
In the past, patients with interstitial cystitis (IC) and chronic prostatitis (CP) were asked about their pain and bladder symptoms and given a score that summarizes their case. You might have taken one of these questionnaires yourself - like the "O'Leary-Sant Symptom and Problem Index." This score would be used by doctors to manage care and by researchers as an indicator of symptom severity. MAPP found though that one score can actually mask important differences. Pain symptoms and bladder symptoms seem to change independently. For example, a patient might have pain that gets better or worse, but their bladder symptoms stay the same. Researchers and doctors can use this information going forward to improve patient care.
3. A natural body response may have gone overboard
Inflammation is a natural response that helps you fight off infection, but may be incorrectly activated in patients with pelvic pain. MAPP found certain markers in the blood that relate to inflammatory responses and IC. Women with IC appear to have more of these markers than women without pain. The next step is to look at these markers in a wider range of patients.
Read more about these insights in this excellent summary of MAPP research, written by the NIDDK: