Interstitial cystitis is chronic inflammation of the wall of the bladder. Inflammation can cause scarring and/or pinpoint bleeding of the bladder wall. It can also lead to decreased space to hold urine.
Although the symptoms are similar to those of a
bladder infection, there is usually no clear cause. Bacteria, fungi, and/or viruses are rarely found in the urine of people with interstitial cystitis. Possible causes include:
An autoimmune response that occurs following a
of the bladder
A leaky inner lining of the bladder that allows irritating substances in the urine to come into contact with the bladder wall
Interstitial cystitis is more common in women.
Other factors that may increase the chances of interstitial cystitis:
Pain in the vulva or vagina in women, or in the testicles, groin, or tip of penis in men
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
There is no known treatment to cure interstitial cystitis. Treatment is aimed at managing symptoms. You may have to try several different treatments before you improve.
Treatment may include one or more of the following:
Some people experience relief after a bladder distention, which is done during a cystoscopy.
During bladder instillation, a solution is put into the bladder through a tube in the urethra. It is held for anywhere from a few seconds to 15 minutes, and then voided. There are several different types of solutions used. Some solutions coat the bladder, some solutions are anesthetics, and some solutions are thought to decrease the inflammation.
Mediations may include:
Over-the-counter pain relievers
Prescription pain relievers
Botulinum toxin A injections
There is no research linking diet to interstitial cystitis. However, many people find that changes in diet can help relieve pain. Different people have different foods that act as triggers. Foods commonly reported to aggravate interstitial cystitis include:
TENS uses an external device that sends mild electrical impulses into the body. It has helped relieve pain and decrease the frequency of urination in some people.
uses an approved device. It has been reported to possibly provide relief in some people with interstitial cystitis who do not respond to other treatments. The electronic device is implanted into the sacral nerve roots of the spinal cord. Electrical impulses are sent to these roots in regular intervals. The impulses are sent to adjust the neural output of the pelvic nerves supplying the bladder.
While some have reported some relief, they appear to be in the minority. Doctors do not know yet what makes the device helpful.
Some people are able to train their bladder to have better control by setting a regular, timed schedule for emptying their bladder. The amount of time between voids is gradually increased. Bladder training should be attempted only after pain relief has been accomplished.
Surgery is used after all other treatment methods have been exhausted and the pain remains severe. Surgical options include:
Ulcer fulguration—instruments inserted through the urethra are used to burn ulcers with electricity or laser
Ulcer removal—instruments inserted through the urethra are used to cut out ulcers
Bladder augmentation—a segment of bowel is used to increase the capacity of the bladder
Interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/interstitial-cystitis-painful-bladder-syndrome. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Offiah I, McMahon SB, O'Reilly BA. Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome: diagnosis and management. Int Urogynecol J. 2013;24(8):1243-1256.
Last reviewed March 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 01/29/2021
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