Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome)

Interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome, is another type of pelvic condition that affects approximately eight million young and middle-aged women in the U.S. Interstitial cystitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder lining that causes pain and pressure in the pelvic area around the bladder.  

Women with IC often feel the need to urinate frequently in addition to experiencing painful urination even though bladder infection is not the cause. For many women, IC interrupts their normal daily activities because of the need to stay close to a bathroom and a constant feeling of discomfort.

What is often most frustrating about this condition is that no exact cause has been pinpointed; however IC patients may also have other health conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and pelvic floor dysfunction, among other conditions.

Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis

While symptoms of IC may vary for each individual, you may experience some or all of the following:

  • Pain in the bladder and in pelvic region surrounding the bladder. Pain may range from mild to severe.  
  • Urgent and frequent need to urinate, even if the bladder is not full.
  • Pain that worsens during menstruation
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Diagnosing IC

There is currently no one diagnostic test that is specific for IC. Your doctor will begin testing for other conditions that cause the same symptoms and come to a diagnosis of IC once other causes are ruled out.

Your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical exam and may order additional testing including:

  • Urine analysis and urine culture
  • Biopsy - During the bladder biopsy, your doctor will take a small bladder tissue sample for examination
  • Cystoscopy with bladder distention – Your doctor uses a small instrument called a cystoscope to view the inside of your bladder. Your doctor may also fill the bladder with a liquid or gas to distend it, which provides a clearer view of the bladder walls. 


Learn about treatment options for IC here.