What is Interstitial Cystitis (IC)?


Interstitial cystitis (in-ter-stish-uhl sĭ-stī'tĭs), or as we call it, IC, is a bladder condition that usually consists of multiple symptoms. Most IC patients have recurring pelvic pain, pressure, or discomfort in the bladder and pelvic region, and urinary frequency (needing to go often) and urgency (feeling a strong need to go). ic interstitial cystitis bladder images

IC may also be referred to as painful bladder syndrome (PBS), bladder pain syndrome (BPS), and chronic pelvic pain. Read more about these different names for IC.

Types of IC

Researchers continue to study IC and investigate why IC symptoms can be different in different patients. Many believe that there may be Additional subtypes, called phenotypes, of IC. This also helps to explain why there is such disparity in how IC patients respond to treatments. Of note is the national phenotyping initiative called the MAPP Research Network, which is supported by NIDDK, one of the National Institutes of Health.

Currently there are two recognized subtypes of IC: non-ulcerative and ulcerative.

    • Non-ulcerative: 90% of IC patients have the non-ulcerative form of IC. Non-ulcerative IC presents with pinpoint hemorrhages, also known as glomerulations, in the bladder wall. However, these are not specific for IC and any inflammation of the bladder can give that appearance.
    • Ulcerative: 5 to 10% of IC patients have the ulcerative form of IC. These patients usually have Hunner's ulcers or patches, which are red, bleeding areas on the bladder wall.

End Stage (Severe) IC

About 5% of IC patients have persistent symptoms for more than 2 years and 5% of patients have end stage disease defined as very hard bladders with low capacity and terrible pain. Many of these patients also have Hunner's ulcers. Learn more about how to treat severe IC. Watch the ICHelp YouTube interview with internationally-known IC expert Kristene Whitmore, MD, from the Pelvic and Sexual Health Institute (PSHI).

Learn More About IC


Revised November 20, 2010