How is interstitial cystitis (IC) diagnosed?

There are no definitive tests to diagnose IC/PBS. It is important to rule out other infections and conditions so your doctor may run different tests, including:

  • Urine sample and urinalysis: The patient provides a urine sample, and the doctor examines it with a microscope to learn if there are any organisms, germs, pus, or white blood cells, which could mean that there is an infection. The doctor can treat the infection with antibiotics. If the urine is sterile for weeks or months and the symptoms continue, doctors may make a diagnosis of IC.
  • Biopsy of the bladder wall and urethra: A biopsy is a sample of tissue taken from the body in order to examine it more closely. This procedure will be done under anesthesia. Tissue may be taken from the bladder wall and urethra (the tube through which urine passes out of the body) to rule out other conditions. A biopsy can help rule out bladder cancer.
  • Cystoscopy: The doctor may examine the inside of the bladder with an instrument called a cystoscope. This is a long, thin scope with an eyepiece on one end. The cystoscope is gently placed up the urethra and into the bladder. The doctor can see into the bladder by looking through the eyepiece. The patient is not under anesthesia during this procedure. A cystoscopy can rule out bladder cancer. If a bladder biopsy is also planned, the cystoscopy may be performed at the same time, but this may require anesthesia.
  • Cystoscopy under anesthesia with bladder distension: A cystoscopy may also be done with bladder distention (stretching). The doctor will perform a cystoscopy as described above and will distend (stretch) the bladder to its maximum capacity by filling it with water. This procedure can reveal cracks in the bladder. This procedure requires anesthesia because the stretching is painful for people with IC. After this procedure, many IC/PBS patients experience temporary relief of their symptoms.

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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