Interstitial Cystitis (IC)/Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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Quick GuidePelvic Pain: What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain?

Pelvic Pain: What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain?

What are risk factors for interstitial cystitis?

Because the cause of IC/PBS is poorly understood, there are no definite risk factors for developing the condition. However, women are more likely than men to develop IC/PBS.

Some associations with other medical conditions are seen with IC/PBS. Women with IC/PBS are more likely to have had frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and to have had previous gynecologic surgery than women without IC/PBS. Certain chronic illnesses have been described as occurring more frequently in people with IC/PBS than in the general population. Examples of these associated illnesses are inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), vulvodynia (chronic discomfort in the vulvar area), allergies, endometriosis, and fibromyalgia. While each of these conditions has been described in at least some studies to be more common in people with IC/PBS than in the general population, there is no evidence that any of these conditions is the cause of IC/PBS.

What are interstitial cystitis symptoms and signs?

The symptoms of IC/PBS vary greatly from one person to another but have some similarities to those of a urinary tract infection. They include

  • decreased bladder capacity resulting in frequent urination of smaller amounts of urine day and night, referred to as urinary frequency;
  • a strong, urgent need to urinate when the need to urinate arises, referred to as urinary urgency;
  • feelings of pressure, pain, and tenderness around the bladder, pelvis, and perineum (the area between the anus and vagina or anus and scrotum) which may increase as the bladder fills and decrease as it empties;
  • painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia); and
  • discomfort or pain in the penis and scrotum.

Most people suffering from IC/PBS have both urinary frequency/urgency and pelvic pain, although these symptoms may also occur singly or in any combination. In most women, symptoms usually worsen around the time of their periods. As with many other illnesses, stress also may intensify the symptoms, but it does not cause them. The symptoms usually have a slow onset, and urinary frequency is the most common early symptom. As IC/PBS progresses over a few years, cycles of pain (flares) and remissions occur. Pain may be mild or so severe as to be debilitating. Symptoms can vary from day to day.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/8/2016

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