Interstitial Cystitis: Signs and Symptoms

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

About 750,000 people in the U.S. (about 90% of whom are women) suffer from a chronic condition of the bladder known as interstitial cystitis. Interstitial cystitis (IC) refers to a clinical syndrome characterized by symptoms including chronic urinary urgency (feeling the need to urinate immediately) and frequency (frequent urination). Pelvic pain may or may not be present. The term cystitis refers to any inflammation of the bladder. Since the wall of the bladder is inflamed, this can lead to pain and soreness in the bladder and pelvic areas. The inflammation can also lead to scarring of the bladder wall that can sometimes reduce the capacity of the bladder to hold urine. In many cases of interstitial cystitis, small hemorrhages and ulcers are present on the inner lining of the bladder wall.

Interstitial cystitis is diagnosed when the symptoms occur without evidence for another cause of the symptoms, such as an infection of the bladder. Sometimes doctors use the term painful bladder syndrome (PBS) to describe cases of pelvic pain that do not meet the strict criteria for interstitial cystitis established by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) for inclusion in research studies relating to interstitial cystitis and its causes.