Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a recurring painful condition of the bladder and the
adjacent pelvic areas. It is also known as the painful bladder syndrome. As the
name suggests, the bladder pain is due to irritation of the bladder wall.
Both men and women can suffer from IC, irrespective of their age, but women in their
middle age are known to be commonly affected with IC.
Normally, the bladder and urethra are lined by epithelium known as glycosaminoglycan
(GAG) layer [Figure 3].
GAG layer functions by
defending the bladder wall from the irritants and toxins in the urine and
preventing bladder infections by keeping bacteria away from sticking to the bladder.1
Causes of IC
The cause of IC remains a mystery. However, studies have found that IC is not caused
by any viral or bacterial infection. The proposed causes are enlisted in [Table
How Does IC Begin?
IC can occur even in the absence of any recognisable cause. It can occur following
a severe bacterial infection, any gynaecological surgery or even child birth. The
symptoms may progress slowly over a period of time or may be sudden and severe.
Prolonged period of IC can progress to advanced stages where the bladder will be
shrunken and scarred, decreasing its capacity to hold urine. As the symptoms of
IC are similar to those seen with urinary tract infection/bladder infection, they
may be misdiagnosed. Often physicians diagnose IC only after infectious causes are
ruled out or patients fail to respond to antibiotic treatment.1,2