Interstitial Cystitis

What is Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is inflammation of the bladder. This may cause pain in the bladder area as well as a frequent and urgent need to urinate. The bladder is a hollow organ in the lower part of the abdomen. It stores urine after the urine is made in the kidneys.

The severity of interstitial cystitis can vary from person to person. You may have flare-ups, and then your symptoms may go away for a while. For many people, it becomes a long-term (chronic) problem.

What are the causes?

The cause of this condition is not known.

What increases the risk?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • You are female.
  • You have fibromyalgia.
  • You have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • You have endometriosis.

This condition may be aggravated by:

  • Stress.
  • Smoking.
  • Spicy foods.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of interstitial cystitis vary, and they can change over time. Symptoms may include:

  • Discomfort or pain in the bladder area, which is in the lower abdomen. Pain can range from mild to severe. The pain may change in intensity as the bladder fills with urine or as it empties.
  • Pain in the pelvic area, between the hip bones.
  • An urgent need to urinate.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Pain during urination.
  • Pain during sex.
  • Blood in the urine.

For women, symptoms often get worse during menstruation.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on your symptoms, your medical history, and a physical exam. You may have tests to rule out other conditions, such as:

  • Urine tests.
  • Cystoscopy. For this test, a tool similar to a very thin telescope is used to look into your bladder.
  • Biopsy. This involves taking a sample of tissue from the bladder to be examined under a microscope.

How is this treated?

There is no cure for this condition, but treatment can help you control your symptoms. Work closely with your health care provider to find the most effective treatments for you. Treatment options may include:

  • Medicines to relieve pain and reduce how often you feel the need to urinate.
  • Learning ways to control when you urinate (bladder training).
  • Lifestyle changes, such as changing your diet or taking steps to control stress.
  • Using a device that provides electrical stimulation to your nerves, which can relieve pain (neuromodulation therapy). The device is placed on your back, where it blocks the nerves that cause you to feel pain in your bladder area.
  • A procedure that stretches your bladder by filling it with air or fluid.
  • Surgery. This is rare. It is only done for extreme cases, if other treatments do not help.

Follow these instructions at home:

Bladder training

  • Use bladder training techniques as directed. Techniques may include:
    • Urinating at scheduled times.
    • Training yourself to delay urination.
    • Doing exercises (Kegel exercises) to strengthen the muscles that control urine flow.
  • Keep a bladder diary.
    • Write down the times that you urinate and any symptoms that you have. This can help you find out which foods, liquids, or activities make your symptoms worse.
    • Use your bladder diary to schedule bathroom trips. If you are away from home, plan to be near a bathroom at each of your scheduled times.
  • Make sure that you urinate just before you leave the house and just before you go to bed.

Eating and drinking

  • Make dietary changes as recommended by your health care provider. You may need to avoid:
    • Spicy foods.
    • Foods that contain a lot of potassium.
  • Limit your intake of beverages that make you need to urinate. These include:
    • Caffeinated beverages like soda, coffee, and tea.
    • Alcohol.

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • You can try a warm or cool compress over your bladder for comfort.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing.
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if you have:

  • Symptoms that do not get better with treatment.
  • Pain or discomfort that gets worse.
  • More frequent urges to urinate.
  • A fever.

Get help right away if:

  • You have no control over when you urinate.


  • Interstitial cystitis is inflammation of the bladder.
  • This condition may cause pain in the bladder area as well as a frequent and urgent need to urinate.
  • You may have flare-ups of the condition, and then it may go away for a while. For many people, it becomes a long-term (chronic) problem.
  • There is no cure for interstitial cystitis, but treatment methods are available to control your symptoms.

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