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Interstitial cystitis (IC)
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Interstitial cystitis (IC)

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When to seek medical advice 

If you're experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of interstitial cystitis, contact your doctor. The sooner it's treated, the more likely treatment is to provide relief.

Screening and diagnosis 

To diagnose interstitial cystitis, your doctor will take your medical history and ask you to describe your symptoms. Because urinary frequency and lower abdominal pain are associated with a number of conditions, your doctor needs to perform tests to rule out other causes, including bladder cancer, kidney stones, sexually transmitted diseases, endometriosis, UTI, and vaginal infection in women or prostatitis in men.

Cystoscopy, a test sometimes used to rule out other causes, involves an examination of your bladder through a thin tube with a tiny video camera (cystoscope). Inserted through the urethra, it allows your doctor to see inside your bladder. To help determine how much your bladder will hold, your doctor may use a liquid or gas to stretch your bladder to capacity (cystodistension). Because it's uncomfortable, the procedure requires the use of general or regional anesthesia.

During cystoscopy, your doctor may use an instrument to remove a sample of tissue from the bladder and the urethra for examination under a microscope. This is to check for bladder cancer.

Researchers are looking to develop a urine test that will help confirm the diagnosis of interstitial cystitis without an invasive procedure. More research is needed to determine whether the urine of people with the condition contains substances not found in the urine of other people.


Interstitial cystitis can result in a number of complications, including:

  • Less bladder capacity. Interstitial cystitis can lead to a thickening or stiffening of the wall of your bladder and reduce bladder capacity, meaning your bladder holds less urine.

  • Reduced quality of life. Frequent urination and pain may lead to your reluctance to engage in many social activities.

  • Relationship troubles. Pain that interferes with sexual intercourse can affect your relationship with your partner.

  • Emotional troubles. The chronic pain and sleep loss associated with the condition can cause emotional stress and depression.

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