What is interstitial cystitis (IC)?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) or painful bladder (PBS) is defined as a pain, pressure, or discomfort in the suprapubic or bladder area which can cause urinary frequency or the urge to urinate that has been present for at least six weeks.

Who gets interstitial cystitis (IC)?

Men, women and children can all be diagnosed with IC. It is estimated that approximately 83,000 men and 1.2 million women in the US suffer from IC.

What causes interstitial cystitis (IC)?

The causes for IC are not completely understood. IC may be related to such medical conditions as:

  • Autoimmune disease.
  • Allergies.
  • Defects in the lining of the bladder.
  • Vascular (blood vessel) disease.
  • Mast cell (cells that cause allergic symptoms) abnormalities.
  • Presence of abnormal substances in the urine.
  • Unidentified infections.

What are the symptoms of interstitial cystitis (IC)?

Symptoms of IC/PBS vary from case to case, and can be mild, severe, occasional or constant. The symptoms may be similar to those of a bladder infection. Women’s symptoms often get worse during menstrual periods.

Symptoms of interstitial cystitis (IC) include the following:

  • Suprapubic or pelvic pain.
  • Pressure or discomfort when the bladder is filling.
  • Having to urinate frequently.
  • Urinating small amounts.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/16/2019.


  • US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome). Accessed 9/24/2019.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is Interstitial Cystitis (IC)? Accessed 9/24/2019.
  • National Kidney Foundation. Interstitial Cystitis. Accessed 9/24/2019.
  • Clemens JQ, Joyce GF, Wise M et al: Interstitial cystitis and painful bladder syndrome. In: Urologic Diseases in America. Edited by M. S. Litwin and C. S. Saigal. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, 2007.

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