Painful Bladder Syndrome – Facts About Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis, also called painful bladder syndrome, is a challenging condition that can impact all facets of a person’s life. An inflammatory disease of the bladder, it causes urinary urgency and frequency, along with ulceration and bleeding of the lining of the bladder. which can lead to scarring and stiffening.

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Diagnosing IC can be difficult, the symptoms are varied, and there is no cure. There are, however treatment strategies that can help mitigate symptoms. Here are more facts about interstitial cystitis.

Causes And Facts About Painful Bladder Syndrome

The cause of IC is unknown. It is not thought to be caused by an infectious agent, and urine cultures are generally negative. Diagnosis usually occurs after ruling out other conditions, such as, UTIs, endometriosis, sexually transmitted infections, and even bladder cancer.

The frequency and severity of symptoms also help to diagnose the condition. Your doctor may perform a pelvic exam to assess the health of your internal pelvic organs. A cystoscopy may be advised to determine if the lining of the bladder is healthy, and a biopsy to rule out bladder cancer.

There are several hypotheses to probable causes of IC. Autoimmunity is one such possibility. An autoimmune reaction occurs when the immune system attacks tissues in the body, mistakenly recognizing them as an invader.

This attack leads to inflammation and tissue damage. It is surmised that these immune system attacks produce antibodies to the bladder lining, causing pain and other symptoms.

Hunner’s Lesions

Hunner’s lesions or ulcers are thought to be the result of these autoimmune attacks. These lesions are patches or areas of inflammation on the bladder wall. These inflammatory patches are an important diagnostic feature, however, they only affect 5-10 percent of patients. A cystoscopy can confirm if these ulcers exist.

Treatment often reduces symptoms dramatically. Steroid injections, ulcer resection, or fulguration( laser) are all techniques used to treat Hunner’s lesions. These lesions should not be confused with glomerulations, or areas of bleeding within the bladder wall, also characteristic of IC. Glomerulations, unlike Hunner’s lesions, do not automatically lead to an IC diagnosis.

Women are affected five times as often as men.  IC, typically, affects those in middle age. Millions of people worldwide suffer from this painful condition. Chronic urinary tract symptoms, lasting more than six weeks, may also lead to an IC diagnosis.

Symptoms Associated with IC

  • Urinary urgency
  • Frequent urination
  • Pelvic pain and pressure
  • Painful sex
  • Chronic pain
  • Bladder discomfort
  • Stiffening and scarring of the bladder
  • Incontinence
  • Inflammation

Associated Risk Factors

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Food sensitivities are implicated in IC. Certain foods may intensify symptoms, and should be excluded on an experimental basis, to determine if they are exacerbating the condition. Oxalates are implicated in IC, and should be decreased or eliminated for a trial period to determine the impact on symptoms.

A gluten and dairy-free diet is also worth trying to see if the outcome is favorable. Acidic foods like alcohol, caffeine, MSG, and soda should be minimized for several weeks. Be aware that citrus fruits and spicy food can also be culprits. Implementing an anti-yeast diet is often helpful as the yeast toxins are irritating to the bladder wall.

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is known to be involved in IC – specifically, the sympathetic nervous system. This is the fight or flight portion of the ANS, and is associated with stress. Finding ways to manage stress may decrease the immune reaction and inflammation associated with IC.

IBS and fibromyalgia are two conditions seen in conjunction with IC. Magnesium deficiency and an unhealthy inner ecosystem may play a role in the development of IC. Supplementation with magnesium and a high-potency probiotic can reduce the symptoms of both these conditions. They also neutralize the toxins from yeast.

Hormonal Imbalances And IC

Hormonal imbalances contribute to inflammation, which can aggravate the symptoms of IC. Why is it that women suffer from IC much more than men? It has to do with the female hormone, estrogen.

Symptoms of IC tend to worsen during ovulation when estrogen levels peak. These high-levels of estrogen activate mast cells within the bladder lining, causing inflammation and irritation. Those with IC have more mast cells than those without this condition.

Taking progesterone is important because it decreases the negative effects of estrogen. While both hormones are critical, the ratio of the two is key. Women with IC have low progesterone levels making them estrogen dominant. Supplementing with bio-identical progesterone is easy, and evens out the activating effects of estrogen.

Balance your hormones, naturally, by eating an anti-inflammatory, organic diet, and exercising consistently. Get adequate sun exposure, and make time for relaxation. Sticking to a strict sleep schedule, and staying hydrated can also reduce your risk. Any protocol that supports your immune system will decrease your risk, and mitigate symptoms.

Options For Painful Symptoms

Many treatment options are available to those suffering from IC. Ozone therapy, in particular, is showing great promise for this condition. Many patients with IC obtain long-term pain relief when treated with ozone.

Ozone has an anti-inflammatory effect by decreasing mast-cell activity. It kills bacteria and activates the immune cells within the bladder lining improving their health. Damaged cells replace themselves more quickly when stimulated with ozone.

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The pelvic floor – a group of muscles that regulate bladder function – may need to be treated. Imbalances in the sacrum are thought to interfere with pelvic floor function.

If low back pain is present in an IC patient, Prolozone therapy may prove helpful. The involves injecting ozone into the pelvic floor and sacrum ligaments, and was discovered by Dr. Frank Shallenberger.

Complementary Therapies

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Key Points

Interstitial cystitis is a complex, painful condition that can greatly decrease a person’s quality of life. While there is no cure, many people with IC  turn to alternative therapies in hopes that something will work to alleviate their chronic pain and discomfort.

Finding appropriate options will likely involve much trial and error. Hopefully, with persistence, relief can be found. The best approach is a combination of therapies.

Do you, or a someone you know, have painful bladder syndrome Let me know in the comments:)


(1) CDC: What is Interstitial Cystitis (IC)?
(2) Medical News Today: What’s to know about interstitial cystitis?
(4) Mayo Clinic: Interstitial cystitis
(5) NCBI:Current best practice management of interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome
(6) NCBI: Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome: A Urologic Mystery
(7) PubMed: Treating Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome as a Chronic Disease
(8) Interstitial Cystitis Association: COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES

Disclaimer: This article is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice.


12 thoughts on “Painful Bladder Syndrome – Facts About Interstitial Cystitis”

  1. Great post, my friend’s girlfriend just started having a few of the symptoms you listed in the post. She got to a clinic and was transferred to the federal hospital. She was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis. 

    My friend is really scared by the diagnosis and how it will affect their lives what it means, that’s why I came to check out your post, so far it doesn’t seem too bad, it’s normal for people to freak out though. I don’t know what treatment she’s going to get or what will be prescribed at the hospital but I hope she’ll be fine. 

    Thanks for this, it was helpful.

    • Hi Jackson.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s girlfriend. IC is serious and chronic. Fortunately, there are strategies she’ll be able to put in place to reduce the pain and inflammation. Best of luck to her and your friend. 

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  2. Interstitial cystitis sounds really painful and uncomfortable, a friend of mine has colitis which makes him bleed from his insides and I thought that sounded terrible untIl I read this post.

    Are interstitial cystitis and colitis similar health problems as the symptoms and problems that they both have sound similar?

    I don’t think I could cope if I had this problem so I feel sorry for those that are going through what seems like a terrible ordeal.

    • Hi Matthew,

      I’m sorry to hear about your friend that has colitis. It’s a painful, chronic condition as is interstitial cystitis. IC is an inflammatory condition of the bladder, whereas ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease. Both are serious problems. My heart goes out to people that struggle with these conditions.

      Thanks so much for reading my article and for taking the time to comment. 


  3. Hello Holly. So far I have not heard of interstitial cystitis. I’m sure it degrades the quality of life for those that have it. But our bodies are amazing at regenerating. I’m against drugs and think they should be used when nothing else works. 

    I think it’s good to consider alternative strategies. Those who suffer from IC should look for these. First, they should be careful what they eat, avoid stress, and have a self-care routine that they adhere to. 

    Best regards


    • Hi Carmen,

      Many people haven’t heard of interstitial cystitis. People who suffer from it have a reduction in their quality of life. Not only is it painful but the urinary urgency and frequency is disruptive.

      Fortunately, there are treatments that can mitigate the discomfort. Self-care, including stress reduction techniques, and a healthy diet are essential. If I had IC, I would be insufflating ozone into my bladder. 

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. IC sounds like something I would not want to learn about personally. There are so many diseases floating around out there that it amazing anyone lives long enough to die of old age! Fresh air, water, exercise, primarily plant based diet, this is what I try to do. Hopefully I can mitigate my risk factor for diseases.

    • Hi Troy,

      Sounds like you’re doing everything right. Yes, you certainly don’t want personal experience with IC or any other disease for that matter. It is pretty amazing that so many people live to a ripe old age, considering the myriad of things that can go wrong. Sounds like you’re mitigating your risk factors. Good for you!

      Thanks so much for reading!

  5. Thank you so much for taking your time to write out this insightful article. My uncle was diagnosed of with Interstitial Cystitis and I can feel enough of his pain so I decided to read more about it. Seriously, this is rather dire. 

    Though he does visit his doctor on a weekly basis, I will suggest this post to him and hopefully the treatment suggestions here might help alleviate his pain a bit. Thanks

    • Thanks for reading my post. I’m sorry to hear about your uncle. Interstitial Cystitis is a chronic, painful condition.  I’m glad he’s working with a physician. Thank you for suggesting my article to him!

  6. Hi, Your post is educating. I learned about the causes, symptoms and possible treatment for Interstitial Cystitis. What really pains me about this type of disease is, you mentioned in your post, that there is no cure for it. 

    I have to share your blog on my social media so that all the potential treatments you have listed can help someone out there who is struggling with this challenging condition. Thanks so much!

    • Hello,

      Thank you. While there isn’t a cure for interstitial cystitis, there are strategies that can help the condition, and people do find relief if they’re persistent. Thanks so much for sharing my post on social media. I feel that it’s important to get this message out there as IC is pretty miserable!


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