Interstitial Cystitis Overview

Urine analysis in laboratory
Urine analysis in laboratory. BURGER/PHANIE / Getty Images

Interstitial cystisis is also known as painful bladder syndrome. This condition is a painful and chronic disease in which one experience bladder pressure, bladder pain, and pelvic pain. In interstitial cystisis, the pelvic nerves that would communicate with the brain that would usually create the urge to urinate would get mixed up. Because of this, those with interstitial cystisis would need to urinate more often and in smaller quantities.

The cause for interstitial cystisis is not found yet, but scientists have found many key factors that can increase the chances of contracting this condition. Those with interstitial cystisis usually have a defect in the epithelium of the bladder. Because of this defect, this would cause a leak of toxic substances in the urine and irritate the wall of the bladder. More women are diagnosed with interstitial cystisis. This may be because men tend to associate the symptoms of interstitial cystisis with prostatitis. Those who are over the age of 30 are more likely to be diagnosed with interstitial cystisis. Furthermore, interstitial cystisis tends to be associated with another chronic pain disorder. Some examples include fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome.

Triggers and Symptoms

The symptoms of this condition usually range from individual to individuals. Usually, the symptoms would range from severe to mild over a period of time.

There would sometimes be triggers that would result in a flare up.

Common triggers would include:

  • sitting for a long period of time
  • sexual activity
  • stress
  • exercise
  • menstruation

Symptoms of interstitial cystisis include:

  • pain in the pelvis
  • pain between the vagina/scrotum and anus
  • chronic pain
  • frequent urinations in small volumes (frequency can go up to 60 times a day)
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • pain while bladder fills
  • constant urge to urinate

Interstitial cystisis can disrupt many daily life activities, such as social gatherings and work, because of frequent urinations. Furthermore, the pelvic pains and frequent urination can also disrupt personal relationships and sexual intercourse is often affected because of the pain. Those with interstitial cystisis often have emotional distress and depression because of the chronic pain and sleepless nights.


Because this condition is so similar to a urinary tract infection, one would need to take a urine test in order to diagnose interstitial cystisis. Urine culture of a person with interstitial cystisis is usually free of bacteria, unlike the urine culture of a person with a urinary tract infection. In order to diagnose interstitial cystisis, the doctor will perform a pelvic exam, a urine test to look for bacteria, a potassium sensitivity test, a cystoscopy that gives the doctor a visual of the epithelium of the bladder, or a biopsy in order to check for bladder cancer or other bladder conditions.


There are many treatments that are nonsurgical and surgical that can reduce the symptoms of interstitial cystisis. Physical therapy can relieve the pain in the pelvis through certain exercises that can reduce the muscle tenderness and abnormalities of the pelvic floor.

There are also some medications that can relieve the symptoms of interstitial cystisis such as NSAIDs (such as naproxen and ibuprofen), antihistamines (such as loratadine), tricyclic antidepressants (such as imipramine and amitriptyline), and pentosan (specifically created to treat interstitial cystisis). Nerve stimulation from TENS can help strengthen bladder muscles, increasing bladder blood flow, and releasing substances that control pelvic and bladder pain. Surgery is an uncommon method to treat interstitial cystisis and is only reserved for severe cases.

Surgical options include bladder augmentation, figurations, and resection.

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