Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a rare, painful and chronic inflammation of the wall of the urinary bladder. In case of interstitial cystitis, the wall of the urinary bladder is irritated, making it stretch less easily and decrease the capacity of the bladder. As a result, a person sooner feels that the bladder is full and thus has urge.


Interstitial cystitis often occurs spontaneously. Sometimes, the disease is the result of a severe bladder infection or surgery, for example to the uterus or prostate. The cause of the disease is still unclear. Bacteria don’t play a role. The inflammation possibly occurs because the immune system produces antibodies against its own urine (autoimmune response).


Initially, the symptoms are the same as for an ordinary bladder infection. They can gradually get worse. The signs and symptoms of interstitial cystitis are:

Hormonal changes in women can increase the symptoms. Those changes occur, for example, by taking the pill, menopause or menstruation.
Interstitial cystitis can be very troublesome in daily life. Because the symptoms also occur overnight, the condition can lead to sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Outdoor activities are becoming increasingly difficult, because a person with interstitial cystitis often needs to go to the toilet.


The diagnosis of interstitial cystitis is difficult to determine and can only be made when other causes, such as an ordinary bacterial bladder infection, don’t play a role. Sometimes, the urologist decides to look inside the bladder with an endoscope (cystoscopy). In case of an interstitial cystitis, the doctor can usually see some small bleedings in the bladder wall. Via this endoscope, a small piece of tissue (biopsy) can be taken from the bladder wall. Then so-called ‘mast cells’ can be seen. These are cells that are loaded with dirty molecules, which are secreted by these cells into the bladder wall.


Interstitial cystitis cannot be cured, but there are treatments to reduce the symptoms:


Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that won’t pass without treatment. But even with treatment there is usually no cure. Quality of life can be increased by the treatment, but treatment is not without side effects. When doing nothing, there’s chronic pain. When opting for treatment, one may have less or even no pain, but has to deal with other inconveniences. In the largest group of patients, one of the previously mentioned treatments is sufficient in order to achieve an acceptable level of pain.