- Urinary Incontinence in Women Slideshow Pictures
- Urinary Incontinence in Men Slideshow Pictures
- Food & Drinks That Make You Gotta Go Slideshow Pictures
- Patient Comments: Interstitial Cystitis - Describe Your Experience
- Patient Comments: Interstitial Cystitis - Symptoms and Signs
- Patient Comments: Interstitial Cystitis - Treatment
- Find a local Urologist in your town
- Interstitial cystitis (IC)/painful bladder syndrome (PBS) facts
- Overview of urinary function
- What is interstitial cystitis (IC)/painful bladder syndrome (PBS)?
- What is the cause of interstitial cystitis?
- What are risk factors for interstitial cystitis?
- What are interstitial cystitis symptoms and signs?
- What types of doctors treat interstitial cystitis?
- How is interstitial cystitis diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for interstitial cystitis?
- Are there home remedies for interstitial cystitis?
- Are lifestyle modifications of value in the management of interstitial cystitis?
- What is the prognosis (outcome) of interstitial cystitis?
- Is it possible to prevent interstitial cystitis?
- Where can people find more information about IC/PBS?
Quick GuidePelvic Pain: What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain?
What is the cause of interstitial cystitis?
No one knows what causes IC/PBS, but doctors believe that it is a real physical problem and not a result, symptom, or sign of an emotional problem. Because the symptoms of IC/PBS are varied, most researchers believe that it represents a spectrum of disorders rather than one single disease.
One area of research on the cause of IC/PBS has focused on the layer that coats the lining of the bladder called the glycocalyx, made up primarily of substances called mucins and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). This layer normally protects the bladder wall from any toxic contents in urine. Researchers have found that this protective layer of the bladder is "leaky" in about 70% of IC/PBS patients and have hypothesized that this may allow substances in urine to pass into the bladder wall where they might trigger IC/PBS directly or by making these patients susceptible to other chemicals in the urine, including those from foods or beverages.
Along with altered permeability of the bladder wall, researchers are also examining the possibility that IC/PBS results from decreased levels of protective substances in the bladder wall. Reduced levels of GAGs (discussed previously) or other protective proteins might also be responsible for the damage to the bladder wall seen in IC/PBS.
No matter what the mechanism for disruption of the bladder lining, potassium is one substance that may be involved in damage to the bladder wall. Potassium is present in high concentrations in urine and is normally not toxic to the bladder lining. However, if the tissues lining the inside of the bladder (urothelium) are disrupted or are abnormally leaky, potassium could then penetrate the lining tissue and enter the muscle layers of the bladder where it can cause damage and promote inflammation.
Researchers have isolated a substance known as anti-proliferative factor (APF) that appears to block the normal growth of cells that make up the lining of the bladder. APF has been identified almost exclusively in the urine of people suffering with IC/PBS. Research is under way to clarify the potential role of APF in the development of IC/PBS.
Increased activation of sensory nerves (neurologic hypersensitivity) in the bladder wall is also thought to contribute to the symptoms of IC/PBS. In addition, cells known as mast cells within the bladder wall, which play a role in the body's inflammatory response to injury, release chemicals that are believed to contribute to the symptoms of IC/PBS.
Other theories about the cause of IC/PBS are that it is a form of autoimmune disorder (in which the body's own immune system attacks the body) or that infection with an unidentified organism may be producing the damage to the bladder and the accompanying symptoms.