What Is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is an inflammation of the tissues of the bladder wall. It causes the same symptoms as cystitis, but no obvious cause can be found.

The condition is difficult to diagnose, and many people are unaware of the problem. On average, a period of four years may pass between the first symptom and when the condition is diagnosed.

About 50,000 cases are diagnosed every year in the United States. Some experts estimate that up to a half million people have interstitial cystitis.

Doctors often fail to consider the possibility of interstitial cystitis and may diagnose this condition as a psychological problem.


  • Unknown

Diagnosis and tests:

  • Ruling out other conditions is the first step.
  • Finding little spots of bleeding in the bladder lining during cystoscopy is characteristic of interstitial cystitis.


  • Sometimes a biopsy of the bladder lining helps confirm the diagnosis.


Although many therapies have been tried, no standardized or completely effective treatments exist. Results vary, depending on the person.

Some treatments that may be useful:

  • Medication to relieve the symptoms. Pentosan (brand name Elmiron) is one drug used specifically to reduce the inflammation of interstitial cystitis. It is available by prescription only.
  • Antidepressants to relieve depression that often accompanies this condition. Antidepressants can help relieve pain, as well.
  • Medication to relax the muscles of the bladder wall. These are called antispasmodics.
  • Antibiotics to kill bacteria when a bladder infection also is present.
  • Following a low-acid diet.

Other treatment options include surgery or participating in clinical trials.

Long-term outlook

Treatment results differ from person to person. Simple treatments work for some, while others may need extensive treatment. Surgery rarely is required to relieve symptoms.

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