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What Is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a painful condition of the bladder. If you have IC, your bladder wall is tender and easily irritated. This leads to uncomfortable symptoms. IC is chronic (ongoing). This means it has no cure. But you can manage the symptoms to help you feel better. 

Cross section of bladder and urethra. Closeup of bladder wall showing normal protective lining on inside of bladder. Closeup of bladder wall showing thinning of protective bladder lining. Closeup of pinpoint bleeding (glomerulations) on bladder wall. Closeup of bladder wall showing Hunner's ulcer in lining and wall.

When You Have IC

Your bladder stores urine (liquid waste) until it’s passed out of the body. It is not clear what causes IC. However, doctors note some changes in the bladder that may be responsible. The protective lining that keeps urine away from your bladder walls seems to become thinner. The walls seem to stiffen and harden so your bladder can’t expand to hold urine. During certain tests, doctors may see pinpoints of bleeding (glomerulations) on your bladder wall. In rare cases, health care providers may also find a crater (called a Hunner ulcer).

Symptoms of IC

Symptoms in women may get worse during their period. Symptoms may go away for a period of time (remission), but they often come back again. Symptoms include:

  • The frequent and urgent need to urinate

  • Pain or pressure in the bladder area, often relieved for a short time after urinating

  • Pain in the genitals or anus

  • Painful sexual intercourse

Possible Causes of IC

  • Damage to the protective bladder lining, allowing urine to irritate your bladder wall

  • Infection of your bladder

  • Allergic reaction in your bladder

  • Neurological (nerve) problems

  • Substances found in the urine that are irritating to your bladder


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