Interstitial Cystitis: Symptoms, Treatments


Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic bladder problem, which is also known as painful bladder syndrome. It most often affects women and can have a long-lasting impact on the quality of life.

With IC, you may feel the need to urinate more often and with smaller volumes of urine than most people.

IC can lead to bladder pressure, bladder pain and sometimes pelvic pain, which range from mild discomfort to severe pain.


Symptoms and severity vary from person to person, and some people with IC may even experience symptom-free periods. Signs and symptoms of IC usually include:

  • Bladder pain and pressure, which get worse when bladder fills up.
  • Pain in the lower tummy, lower back, pelvis, or urethra
  • Pain in the pelvis or between the vagina and anus in women
  • Pain between the scrotum and anus in men
  • Persistent and urgent need to urinate
  • Pain during sex intercourse for women
  • Pain during orgasm or after sex for men


IC can result in a number of complications, including:

  • Reduced bladder capacity: IC will cause the stiffening of the bladder wall, and less urine will be held.
  • Sexual intimacy problems
  • Emotional problems such as depression
  • Lower quality of life: IC can interfere with social activities, work and other activities of daily life.


The reasons why IC occurs are still unclear, but several factors may lead to it:

  • Bladder tissue problems
  • Inflammation of the prostate gland
  • Urine problems
  • Older than 30 years old or during 30s
  • Nerve problems that make the bladder feel pain from things which usually don’t hurt
  • Chronic pain disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome or fibromyalgia


Your doctor generally make a diagnosis based upon:

  • Medical history and bladder diary.

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and may ask you to keep a bladder diary, recording the volume of fluids you drink and the volume of urine you pass.

  • Pelvic exam.
  • Urine test.
  • Cystoscopy.

During the process, the doctor inserts a thin tube with a tiny camera (cystoscope) through the urethra, showing the lining of the bladder.

  • Biopsy.
  • Urine cytology.

The doctor collects a urine sample and examines the cells to help rule out cancer.

  • Potassium sensitivity test.

During the test, the doctor instills water and potassium chloride into the bladder, one at a time. Then, the individual need to rate on a scale of 0 to 5 the pain and urgency he/she feels. People with normal bladders can’t tell the difference between the two solutions.


Treatments for interstitial cystitis include oral medications, nerve stimulation, bladder distention, medications instilled into the bladder, surgeries and so on. Detailed explanations are as follows:

Oral Medications

Examples of oral medications are:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain;
  • Tricyclic antidepressants to help relax the bladder and block pain;
  • Antihistamines to reduce urinary urgency and frequency and relieve other symptoms;
  • Pentosan polysulfate sodium (Elmiron) to help restore the inner surface of the bladder and protect bladder wall from substances in urine that could irritate it.

Nerve Stimulation

Nerve stimulation techniques include:

  • Sacral nerve stimulation: This procedure cannot manage pain from interstitial cystitis but can help relieve some symptoms of urinary frequency and urgency.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This procedure relieves pelvic pain and reduces urinary frequency in some cases. It can also increase blood flow to the bladder.

Bladder Distention

It is the stretching of the bladder with water.

Medications Instilled into the Bladder

Examples of these medications include dimethyl sulfoxide, local anesthetic, lidocaine, sodium bicarbonate and so on.


Surgeries are recommended when other treatments for IC fail and symptoms affect patients’ quality of life. The options include:

  • Resection: Insert instruments through the urethra to cut around any ulcers.
  • Bladder augmentation: Put a patch of intestine on the bladder. This cannot eliminate the pain and may even require emptying bladder with a catheter many times a day.
  • Fulguration: Insert instruments through the urethra to burn off ulcers.

Keywords: Interstitial Cystitis; painful bladder syndrome.

Related Posts:

What is Interstitial Cystitis?

What is Painful Bladder Syndrome?

What is the Diet for Interstitial Cystitis?

What are the Causes of Bladder Pain?

What are the Causes of Bladder Discomfort?

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.