Etiology of IC

IC may be caused by a breakdown of the protective lining of the bladder—or glycosaminoglycan layer—that may allow potentially irritating solutes in the urine to reach the cells of the bladder wall.2

Etiology Animation
Etiology animation bg
Etiology animation

The etiology of IC is not completely understood, but several theories have been proposed.3 These theories include

  • Bladder urothelium/glycosaminoglycan (GAG) layer permeability dysfunction3
    • Results in solute (potassium and other urinary metabolites) leak into the interstitium
  • Mast cell activation3
    • When activated, mast cells release histamine and other mediators, stimulating sensory nerve fibers and causing local tissue damage and vascular constriction
  • Neurogenic inflammation3
    • Causes additional cell damage and further activation of mast cells. Over time, the ongoing effects of activation of mast cells and C-fibers damage local tissue and cause fibrotic changes within the bladder

Epidemiology of IC

Studies have revealed that IC is far more prevalent than previously thought.3,4 Although IC is most commonly diagnosed in women, it is being recognized increasingly in men.3

Symptoms of IC

Patient presentation of IC is variable—symptoms may range from mild discomfort, pressure, or tenderness to intense pain in the bladder and/or pelvic region. Symptoms may also include urgency, frequency, nocturia, and painful intercourse.5

Often, symptoms of IC mimic those of other conditions.1,2 Due in part to these “mimicking conditions,” patients with IC can be symptomatic for years before a correct diagnosis is made.6 For more information, go to Mimicking Conditions.

Diagnosing IC

Tools exist to help evaluate patients for IC. For more information on identifying and assisting with the diagnosis of patients for IC, go to Patient Evaluation.

Treating IC

Therapeutic agents exist for the treatment of IC. Along with pharmacologic agents, diet, and lifestyle modifications, patients should receive counseling on expectations for treatment and ways to help manage their condition.7

For information about treating IC with ELMIRON®, go to ELMIRON for IC.


  • Hanno PM. Bladder pain syndrome (interstitial cystitis) and related disorders. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Novick AC, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. Vol 1. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier Inc; 2012;357-401.
  • Parsons CL. Interstitial cystitis: epidemiology and clinical presentation. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2002;45(1):242-249.
  • Clemens JQ, Meenan RT, O’Keeffe Rosetti MC, et al. Prevalence and incidence of interstitial cystitis in a managed care population. J Urol. 2005;173(1):98-102.
  • Rosenberg MT, Hazzard M. Prevalence of interstitial cystitis symptoms in women: a population based study in the primary care office. J Urol. 2005;174(1):2231-2234.
  • National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome. Published September 2011. Updated September 10, 2013. Accessed February 25, 2015.
  • Driscoll A, Teichman JMH. How do patients with interstitial cystitis present? J Urol. 2001;166:2118-2120.
  • Kahn BS, Stanford EJ, Mishell DR Jr, et al. Management of patients with interstitial cystitis or chronic pelvic pain of bladder origin: a consensus report. Curr Med Res Opin. 2005;21(4):509-516.