Symptoms and Signs of Interstitial Cystitis

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is inflammation of the bladder without any infectious cause. Signs and symptoms may vary in individuals but usually one or more of the following may be present: urinary frequency and/or urgency, urinary incontinence, pain (lower back, abdomen, urethra, pelvic and/or perineal areas), depression and sleep problems. Some people have increased severity of symptoms after exposure to food and drinks like tomatoes, spices, high-acidic foods, chocolate, alcohol or stressful situations. Men may have pain in the scrotum, testicles or penis and painful orgasms; women may have pain in the vulva or vagina and painful intercourse – pain can increase during her periods.

The cause(s) of IC are not known but there are theories. They include autoimmune, hereditary, mast cell abnormalities (these cells are associated with inflammation development), defective bladder epithelial cells and nerves that carry information to and from the bladder. Some researchers suggest the cause may be an undetected infectious agent.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.