Interstitial Cystitis: Definition, Symptoms, Who has it, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

interstitial cystitis bladder

Is a condition of the bladder, it is also known as the ‘Bladder Pain Syndrome.

The exact causes of IC are still unknown. However, several theories are under discussion by the medical community.

IC is believed to be a manifestation of a series of factors which include the autoimmune theory, nerve theory, and mast cell theory, etc.

Cystitis is the medical term that refers to inflammation of the bladder. Most of the time, inflammation is caused by a bacterial infection, and by urinary tract infection (UTI).

A bladder infection can be painful and annoying, and can become a severe health problem and if it spreads to the kidneys.

Often, cystitis can occur as a reaction to medications, radiotherapy or irritating potentials, to stories such as feminine hygiene sprays, sperm jellies, or prolonged use of a catheter.

Cystitis can also occur as a complication of another underlying disease.

The usual treatment for bacterial cystitis is antibiotics. Treatment for other types of cystitis will depend on the underlying cause.

Some sources suggest that there may also be genetic and allergic reasons behind this condition.

Modern research has shown that people affected by IC have an inhibitor in the urine, which stops the growth of epithelial cells in the bladder.

This inhibition causes the weakening of the epithelium which leads to the leakage of toxic substances into the urine.

As a result, chronic pains occur in the bladder. Studies show that more than 4 million people in the US are diagnosed with IC regularly.

A healthy person, who is not affected by IC, may need to urinate about seven times a day.

However, a person with this condition may need to go 60 times, including a lot of visits to the bathroom during the night.


The symptoms of interstitial cystitis can vary. It depends on a lot of factors that include the gender of the patient, the severity of the condition and the triggers.

Common triggers that attribute to increase in pain and inflammation are menstruation, physical activity, and stress, etc.

The symptoms and signs of IC usually include chronic pain in the pelvic region, a constant urge to urinate, pain in the bladder especially when it is full and pain in the genitals during sexual activities.


The feeling of having to go to the bathroom now! Feeling need is reasonable if you have not urinated in a few hours, or if you have taken too much fluid.

But you may have a problem if you usually feel the urge to urinate before your bladder has had time to fill again.

The urgency arises suddenly and without apparent reason. Sometimes, you could have an accident when the emergency comes so quickly that you do not have time to get into a bathroom.


The feeling of having to urinate much more often. Doctors and nurses use the term “urination,” which means emptying the bladder. Most people leave the bladder four to seven times a day.

You will probably do it more often if you take large amounts of liquid medicines or water pills, for blood pressure, called diuretic.

If you have to empty your bladder more than eight times a day and do not take diuretics or drink lots of fluids, you may have a problem.


The sensation of something more than a nuisance to feel like urinating. Having a full bladder can be annoying, but it should not be painful.

If you feel intense burning or pain in the bladder or urethra (the opening through which urine leaves the body), you may have a problem.

Some people have pain but do not experience urgency or frequency. Other people experience need and rate but have no pain.

As mentioned earlier, people suffering from IC may need to visit the toilet up to 60 times a day. Most of the times, only a small amount of urine gets passed.

One point that must be kept in mind here is that some of the patients have reported that the symptoms of IC may come and go with time.

Also, interstitial cystitis can be easily confused with the urinary tract infection. The reason behind this is that both kinds of diseases have similar symptoms. A urine culture needs to be carried out to distinguish between both.

Who has Interstitial Cystitis?

Both men and women may have it, although this affects twice as many women as men. It can occur at any age, but it is more common in middle-aged people.

People almost never have bladder pain all the time. The pain usually comes and goes, as the bladder fills and then empties. The pain may disappear for weeks or months and then return.

People refer an attack of pain in the bladder as an aggravation of symptoms.

People with bladder pain sometimes suffer from worsening of symptoms due to stress. But stress does not cause a person to have IC.


Although the exact cause of interstitial cystitis is unknown, many factors are likely to contribute. For example, people with interstitial cystitis may also have a defect in the protective lining (epithelium) of the bladder.

A leak in the epithelium can cause toxic substances in the urine to irritate the bladder wall.

Other possible but not proven factors that may contribute include an autoimmune reaction, inheritance, infection or allergy.


Several tests may be needed to find the cause of bladder pain.

Urine sample

You may be given a toilet bowl in the doctor’s office. In this case, a health professional will instruct you to collect urine in the container.

If you have an infection in the bladder, your urine will have germs and sometimes pus that doctors can see with a microscope.

Your doctor may treat an infection by prescribing antibiotics. If your urine is germ-free for weeks or months, but you still have pain in the bladder, your doctor may determine that you have IC.

Examination of the bladder with a cystoscope

Your doctor could do a test to examine the inside of your bladder with a cystoscope. In this analysis, the doctor guides the tip of the cystoscope gently through the urethra and into the bladder.

This way the doctor can see inside your bladder, looking through a viewfinder to the other end of the cystoscope.

The doctor may fill the bladder with fluid. When the bladder is full, the doctor can see the inner wall better. After the test, you will remove the fluid naturally through the urethra.


There is not any simple treatment for interstitial cystitis. Several patients have claimed that mixing a series of treatments can help in getting faster relief from the symptoms.

People can take the medication orally. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be prescribed to relieve the pain. Tricyclic antidepressants are used to help with the inflammation in the bladder.

Similarly, loratadine can be taken by patients to reduce the frequency of urination. For patients with severe symptoms and complications, surgery can also be an option.

Minimal invasive methods can be employed to burn off the ulcers within the bladder.

Bladder augmentation is the process in which the infected parts of the bladder are cut off and replaced with a section taken from the colon.

However, this method is not accessible as the symptoms are only controlled up to a certain extent.