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Interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome)

Symptoms, causes, and treatment options for interstitial cystitis

Man with interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome) doubles over in pain
Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome (or bladder pain syndrome), is a chronic condition that causes pain and discomfort in the bladder and surrounding pelvic area. It is characterised by symptoms such as urinary frequency (peeing a lot), urgency (sudden need to pee), and pain or discomfort in your pelvic area. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can greatly affect a person's quality of life, with a common side effect being difficulty sleeping.

While the exact cause of interstitial cystitis is not known, we believe it to be related to abnormalities in the bladder's lining. This can lead to inflammation, irritation, and pain in the bladder. Some factors that may increase the risk of developing interstitial cystitis include a history of urinary tract infections, bladder or pelvic surgery, and a family history of the condition.

For more information on interstitial cystitis or other conditions that affect your bladder, our experienced urologists are here to help you. Call 0141 300 5009 or book online today and you could have your initial consultation within 48 hours.

At Circle Health Group, we understand the impact that interstitial cystitis can have on a person's life. That's why we offer private interstitial cystitis treatment options to help manage symptoms and improve overall quality of life. Our team of specialist consultants is experienced in diagnosing and treating interstitial cystitis and will work with you to develop an individualised treatment plan.

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that affects the bladder and surrounding pelvic area, resulting in a range of symptoms that can vary in severity. Some of the most common symptoms of interstitial cystitis include:

Urinary frequency (peeing frequently)

One of the most common symptoms of interstitial cystitis is a frequent need to urinate. This can occur as often as every 10-15 minutes, and can be accompanied by a feeling of urgency.

Urinary urgency (sudden need to pee)

People with interstitial cystitis may feel a strong and sudden urge to urinate, even when their bladder is not full. This can make it difficult to hold urine and can lead to incontinence.

Pelvic pain or discomfort

A person with interstitial cystitis may experience pain or discomfort in the pelvic area. This can range from a mild discomfort to a severe pain that can be debilitating. The pain may be constant or intermittent, and may be worse during or after urination.

Painful intercourse

In some cases, interstitial cystitis can also cause pain during intercourse. This is caused by the inflammation of the bladder and surrounding pelvic area, which can make intercourse uncomfortable or even unbearable.

Bladder and urethral pain

A person with interstitial cystitis may also experience pain or discomfort in the bladder and urethra. This can be accompanied by a burning or stinging sensation, which can be very distressing.

How do I know if I have interstitial cystitis?

Symptoms of interstitial cystitis can be similar to those of other conditions such as urinary tract infections or bladder cancer, so if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to see a specialist such as a urologist for an accurate diagnosis. Our specialists will conduct a thorough examination, including a review of your medical history and a physical examination. They may also perform diagnostic tests such as a urinalysis, cystoscopy, and hydrodistention to rule out other conditions and confirm a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis.

The exact cause of interstitial cystitis is not fully understood, but there are several theories about what may contribute to the development of the condition.

Bladder wall damage

One theory is that interstitial cystitis is caused by damage to the bladder wall, which leads to inflammation and irritation. This damage may be caused by an infection or injury, or it may be a result of an underlying condition such as autoimmune disorder.

Abnormal nerve function

Another theory is that interstitial cystitis is caused by abnormal nerve function in the bladder. This can lead to increased sensitivity and abnormal contractions of the bladder, which can cause pain and discomfort.

Genetic factors

Research suggests that there may be a genetic component to interstitial cystitis, as the condition tends to run in families. It's possible that certain genetic mutations or variations may make some individuals more susceptible to developing the condition.

Environmental factors

Exposure to certain chemicals, toxins, or other environmental factors may also play a role in the development of interstitial cystitis. Some studies have found that individuals with interstitial cystitis have higher levels of certain chemicals in their urine compared to those without the condition.

No matter the cause, Circle Health Group offers private interstitial cystitis treatment that can help alleviate your symptoms, improve your quality of life and get you back to feeling like yourself again. Our urologists are dedicated to finding the best treatment option for you and are committed to your comfort and recovery. Contact us to book a consultation today.

At Circle Health Group, our specialists are dedicated to providing the highest level of care for individuals with interstitial cystitis. Our approach includes a combination of medical treatment and lifestyle changes to manage symptoms and improve overall quality of life.

There are several non-surgical options for treating interstitial cystitis, including medications, dietary changes, and physiotherapy. We'll always try to use a non-invasive approach before suggesting surgery.


Our urologists may prescribe medications to help manage symptoms of interstitial cystitis, such as pain, urinary frequency, and urgency. There are several medications that may be used to treat interstitial cystitis, including antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, and pentosan polysulfate sodium (PPS).

Diet and Lifestyle

There are certain lifestyle factors that can help to manage the symptoms of interstitial cystitis, though they won't work for everyone.

One is to avoid triggers, which are things that encourage or exacerbate your symptoms. Our team can help you to track and identify your triggers and find ways to avoid them.

Many triggers are dietary, and some people find that avoiding certain foods and beverages seems to irritate their bladder less, reducing pain and discomfort.

Stress is also believed to be a contributing factor, and you may find that addressing your stress can help to reduce your symptoms.

It's also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, which can help manage your symptoms as well as improving your overall health and resilience.


Physiotherapy, in particular pelvic floor muscle exercises, can help to improve bladder function and reduce pain associated with interstitial cystitis.

In some cases, surgery may be recommended to treat interstitial cystitis. These options include bladder instillation therapy, bladder augmentation, and nerve stimulation.

Bladder instillation therapy

Bladder instillation therapy involves injecting medication directly into the bladder to help reduce inflammation and pain.

Bladder augmentation

Bladder augmentation is a surgical procedure that involves enlarging the bladder to increase its capacity. This can help to reduce frequency of urination and improve bladder function.

Nerve stimulation

Nerve stimulation involves placing a small device that sends electrical impulses to the nerves in the pelvic area to help reduce pain and discomfort associated with interstitial cystitis.

Not all treatments may be suitable for every individual, and the best course of treatment will depend on the specific case. If you are experiencing symptoms of interstitial cystitis, it's important to book a consultation with a specialist at Circle Health Group to discuss the treatment options available to you.

At Circle Health Group, our expert urologists understand the discomfort and distress that interstitial cystitis can cause. That is why we take a holistic approach to private interstitial cystitis treatment, offering a quick diagnosis and a personalised approach to managing the condition, which we build around your individual needs, looking at your wellbeing as a whole.

When you come in for your initial consultation, our team of experts will work with you to determine the best course of action for your individual case. We will start by taking a detailed medical history, including information about your symptoms and any other relevant information. We may also conduct a physical examination and perform diagnostic tests, such as a cystoscopy, which involves inserting a small camera into your bladder to get a better view of the lining.

Our specialists may also recommend additional tests such as a urine analysis or a bladder biopsy to help determine the cause of your symptoms. These tests will help us rule out other conditions and make an accurate diagnosis.

An accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment, so it is important that you let us know about any symptoms you have been experiencing. Your first consultation is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have and to learn more about the condition and the treatment options available.

Once we have a clear understanding of your condition, our urologists will work with you to develop a personalised treatment plan that best meets your needs. This may include non-surgical options such as medications, physiotherapy and dietary changes, or if your condition is very severe we may recommend surgery.

We answer your commonly asked questions about interstitial cystitis.

Should I take an interstitial cystitis quiz?

There are various online quizzes and symptom checkers that can help you determine if you may have interstitial cystitis. However, it's important to note that these quizzes are not a substitute for a proper medical diagnosis. If you suspect you may have interstitial cystitis, it's important to schedule a consultation with a urological consultant at Circle Health Group to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Can antibiotics cause interstitial cystitis flare-ups?

In some cases, taking antibiotics can cause a flare-up of symptoms in people with interstitial cystitis. This is because antibiotics can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the urinary tract and may cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. If you are experiencing flare-ups after taking antibiotics, it's important to speak with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.

Can interstitial cystitis be cured?

There is currently no known cure for interstitial cystitis. However, there are several treatment options available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. At Circle Health Group, our specialists work with each patient to develop a customised treatment plan that may include medications, physiotherapy, and lifestyle changes.

Can interstitial cystitis cause bloating?

Yes. One of the symptoms of IC is abdominal bloating, which can be caused by the inflammation of the bladder and pelvic area.

Can interstitial cystitis cause pain during intercourse?

Yes, interstitial cystitis can cause pain during intercourse. This is known as dyspareunia, which is a common symptom of IC. This pain is caused by the inflammation of the bladder and pelvic area.

Can interstitial cystitis come and go?

Yes, the symptoms of interstitial cystitis can come and go. The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person and can change over time. Some people may experience symptom-free periods, while others may have symptoms that are constant.

Can pelvic floor exercises help interstitial cystitis?

Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, can help to improve the symptoms of interstitial cystitis. These exercises can help to strengthen the muscles in the pelvic area, which can improve bladder control and reduce pain and discomfort.

Does interstitial cystitis make you tired?

Interstitial cystitis can cause fatigue due to the chronic pain and discomfort that it causes. Additionally, the need to urinate frequently can disrupt sleep and lead to fatigue.

How do you test for interstitial cystitis?

There is no specific test to diagnose interstitial cystitis. The diagnosis is usually made based on the patient's symptoms, medical history, and a physical examination. Your doctor may also perform a urine test, cystoscopy, or bladder distention to rule out other conditions.

How to sleep with interstitial cystitis?

Sleeping with interstitial cystitis can be difficult due to the pain and discomfort caused by the condition. Some tips for sleeping with IC include using a heating pad on the lower abdomen, taking a warm bath before bed, and avoiding foods and drinks that can aggravate symptoms.

Is ginger good for interstitial cystitis?

Some studies have suggested that ginger may have anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial for people with interstitial cystitis. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

Is turmeric good for interstitial cystitis?

Like ginger, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial for people with interstitial cystitis. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

What drinks are good for interstitial cystitis?

Drinks that are good for interstitial cystitis are those that do not irritate the bladder, such as water and unsweetened cranberry juice. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol may also help to reduce symptoms.

What foods aggravate interstitial cystitis?

Certain foods and drinks can aggravate the symptoms of interstitial cystitis. Common triggers include spicy foods, acidic foods, and beverages containing caffeine or alcohol. Some people may find that certain fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, and peppers, can also aggravate symptoms.

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to suit your routine
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant fit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to you
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard and delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to learn more about treatment for interstitial cystitis, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in January 2023. Next review due January 2026.

  1. Bladder pain syndrome (interstitial cystitis), NHS
  2. Interstitial Cystitis, National Kidney Foundation
  3. What is Interstitial Cystitis (IC)/Bladder Pain Syndrome, Urology Care Foundation
  4. Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome, Cleveland Clinic
  5. Interstitial Cystitis, John Hopkins Medicine
  6. Interstitial Cystitis, Healthline
  7. Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome), NIH

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