Interstitial Cystitis

What is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC)/bladder pain syndrome (BPS) is a chronic bladder health issue. It is a feeling of pain and pressure in the bladder area. Along with this pain are lower urinary tract symptoms which have lasted for more than 6 weeks, without having an infection or other clear causes.


The exact cause of interstitial cystitis (IC) remains a mystery, but researchers have identified a number of different factors that may contribute to the development of the condition. Many researchers believe a trigger (caused by one or more events) may initially damage the bladder or bladder lining, and ultimately lead to the development of IC. Symptoms range from mild to severe. For some patients, the symptoms may come and go, and for others, they don't go away. IC/BPS is not an infection, but it may feel like a bladder infection. Women with IC/BPS may feel pain when having sex. The more severe cases of IC/BPS can affect your life and your loved ones. Some people with IC/BPS have other health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and other pain syndromes.

Interstitial Cystitis Treatments

There are many available treatment options to help relieve your symptoms of bladder pain, urgency, and frequency. Among the various interstitial cystitis treatments, oral medications play a crucial role in managing pain and inflammation. These medications, targeting the immune system, aim to modulate its response and mitigate discomfort. Another common method involves bladder instillations, where therapeutic substances like dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) or polysulfate sodium are instilled directly into the bladder through a catheter. A combination of these treatments is the best approach to managing your IC.

  • Bladder trauma (such as from pelvic surgery)
  • Bladder overdistention (anecdotal cases suggest onset after long periods without access to bathroom facilities)
  • Pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Bacterial infection (cystitis)
  • Primary neurogenic inflammation (hypersensitivity or inflammation of pelvic nerves)
  • Spinal cord trauma

Common Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is a painful bladder syndrome, and the symptoms of IC can vary from person to person. Some people may experience mild symptoms, while others may have severe symptoms that impact their daily life. Some common symptoms of interstitial cystitis include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Frequent urination (more than 8 times a day)
  • Urinary urgency
  • Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • Pain or discomfort in the bladder area
  • Pain or discomfort in the lower back
  • Painful urination

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a urologist for an accurate diagnosis.

Interstitial Cystitis Diagnosis

There are several methods that urologists use to diagnose interstitial cystitis. These methods include:

  • Medical history: Your urologist will ask about your medical history, including any past urinary tract infections or other conditions that may be contributing to your symptoms.
  • Physical exam: Your urologist will perform a physical exam to check for any signs of bladder inflammation or infection.
  • Urine test: A urine test may be done to check for signs of infection or other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
  • Urine culture: A urine culture may be done to check for bacteria or other organisms that may be causing your symptoms.
  • Bladder wall examination: Your urologist may perform a cystoscopy to examine the inside of your bladder and check for any signs of inflammation or other abnormalities.
  • Long-term Outlook for Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition, which means that it may require long-term management. However, with the right treatment plan, many people with interstitial cystitis are able to manage their symptoms and maintain a good quality of life.

It is important to work closely with your urologist to develop a treatment plan that works best for you. Your urologist may recommend a combination of treatments to help manage your symptoms.

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