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Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial Cystitis

What is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as bladder pain syndrome, is a chronic inflammation of the bladder which feels like minor to severe pressure or pain in the bladder or pelvic region.  Although it is not technically an infection, it can sometimes be misdiagnosed as a chronic bladder infection or a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).

Who does it affect?

It is estimated that as many as 3.3 million women and 1.6 million men in the USA may have symptoms of interstitial cystitis, affecting those of all races and ages.

What are the symptoms?

Those with IC usually have symptoms that feel very similar to a bladder infection. They often experience frequent UTIs, overactive bladders, urethral syndrome, prostatitis, and great pain in the bladder area (which is focused in the muscular layers of the bladder). The most common symptoms are:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Painful urination
  • Pain that is worsened with bladder filling or improved with urination
  • Dysuria (burning in the urethra)
  • Urgency to void and/or frequency of urination
  • Feeling of pressure in the bladder
  • Nocturia (waking at night to urinate)
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

What are some associated conditions?

Those with interstitial cystitis often suffer from other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or chronic pain disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.

What is the cause?

The cause is thus far unknown. Several theories have been suggested, such as relation to infection, heredity/genetics, allergy, stress, or autoimmune disorders.

Should I see my doctor?

For medical advice, diagnosis, and determining a treatment plan, it’s suggested you make an appointment with your health care practitioner.

Management and Treatment Options

There are various options available that can sometimes bring relief, such as:

  • Bladder distension (a process under general anesthesia which stretches the bladder)
  • Bladder instillations of medication (DMSO, heparin, lidocaine)
  • Diet modification
  • Stress management
  • Physical therapy
  • Oral medication
  • Botox (Botulinum Toxin) injections
  • Surgical intervention (rarely used)
  • Pain control therapies (acupuncture, biofeedback, etc.)
  • Pelvic floor treatments (Kegel exercises)


For more information and for support and connection with others, check out these links:
IC Network Support Center
IC Network Forum
Interstitial Cystitis Association

Urology Care Foundation – Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome)

Wikipedia – Interstitial Cystitis

Mayo Clinic – Interstitial Cystitis

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