Skip to Content

Interstitial Cystitis


What is interstitial cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is also called painful bladder syndrome. IC is a condition that causes pain in your bladder and pelvic area. You may also have ulcers in your bladder. The cause of IC is not known.

Kidney, Ureters, Bladder

What are other symptoms of IC?

  • Pressure in your bladder and pelvic area
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Urinating more often or waking to urinate
  • Increased pain during menstruation in women
  • Pain in the penis or scrotum in men
  • Pain during sex

How is IC diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. He or she will also ask about any medical conditions you have and medicines you take. Your provider may ask you to keep track of how much liquid you drink. You may also need to keep track of how often and how much you urinate. Your provider may order tests to rule out other causes of IC. Examples include urine tests or a cystoscopy. A cystoscopy is a procedure to look inside your urethra and bladder.

How is IC treated?

The goal of treatment is to control your symptoms. Your healthcare provider may recommend any of the following:

  • Nutrition changes may be needed. Foods such as oranges, lemons, tomatoes, chocolate, alcohol, spicy foods, soft drinks, and coffee may worsen your symptoms.
  • Medicines may be given to decrease symptoms such as pain or the need to urinate urgently or often. These medicines may be taken by mouth or placed directly into your bladder. Antibiotics may be given for 1 to 5 days to treat a bacterial infection.
  • Bladder distension is a procedure to stretch the walls of your bladder using gas or fluid.
  • Electrical stimulation helps increase blood flow to your bladder and strengthens the muscles that control your bladder. Mild electrical pulses are sent to the nerves in your bladder. The impulses may also help release hormones that block pain.
  • Surgery may be done to remove ulcers in your bladder or make your bladder larger. Damaged areas of your bladder may be removed and replaced with tissue from your large intestine.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Do Kegel exercises as directed. Kegel exercises will help strengthen the muscles that control bowel movements and urination. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on Kegel exercises. Tighten your pelvic muscles slowly. It may feel like you are trying to hold back urine or gas. Hold these muscles and count to 3. Relax, tighten them quickly, and release. Repeat the cycle 10 times. Do 10 sets of Kegel exercises, 5 times a day. Do not hold your breath when you do Kegel exercises. Keep your stomach, back, and leg muscles relaxed.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking may worsen your symptoms. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can also cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Train your bladder to urinate less often. This can be done by going to the bathroom at scheduled times. Try to hold your urine when you feel the urge to go. For example, hold your urine for 5 minutes when you feel the urge to go. As that becomes easier, hold your urine for 10 minutes.
  • Manage stress. Stress may worsen symptoms. Your healthcare provider may recommend you find ways to manage stress, such as relaxation techniques.

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your symptoms get worse, or you develop new symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.