Bladder Home > Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that causes the bladder wall to become irritated or inflamed. This may lead to scarring and stiffening of the bladder and pinpoint bleeding in the bladder lining. Symptoms of interstitial cystitis include pain in the bladder and surrounding pelvic area, an urgent and frequent need to urinate, and reduced bladder capacity. Treatment options include self-help measures, medications, and bladder manipulation techniques.

What Is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (also known as IC, bladder cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome) is a chronic condition that can cause discomfort or pain in the bladder and the surrounding pelvic region. People with this condition have an inflamed or irritated bladder wall. This inflammation can lead to:
  • Scarring and stiffening of the bladder.
  • Less bladder capacity (the bladder is able to hold less urine).
  • Pinpoint bleeding in the bladder lining. In rare cases, ulcers form in the bladder lining, called Hunner's ulcers.
Severe cases can be disabling. Of the more than 800,000 Americans estimated to have interstitial cystitis, over 90 percent are women.

Causes of Interstitial Cystitis

No one knows the exact cause or causes of interstitial cystitis. Researchers are working to understand possible causes and to find effective treatments. Current theories being studied as possible causes include:
  • An autoimmune response
  • Irritating substances in the urine
  • Genetics.

Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis symptoms vary from person to person, and even in the same person. People with possible symptoms commonly have any of the following:
  • Mild discomfort, pressure, tenderness, or intense pain in the bladder and surrounding pelvic area, which may increase as the bladder fills and decrease as it empties.
  • Urgent need to urinate (urgency).
  • Frequent need to urinate (frequency), both day and night.
  • Reduced bladder capacity. People with severe symptoms may urinate as many as 60 times during a 24-hour period.
  • Painful sexual intercourse.
  • In men, discomfort or pain in the prostatic area.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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