About Interstitial Cystitis

Key points

  • Interstitial cystitis (IC) is also called bladder pain syndrome.
  • It causes pain in the bladder area, below the belly button.
  • Anyone at any age can have IC.
  • It can last for years or be lifelong.
  • The cause of IC is unknown.
Woman on couch holding her stomach in pain.

What it is

Woman on couch holding stomach and forehead, due to IC pain and discomfort.
Almost twice as many women have IC than men.
  • IC is a chronic bladder condition.
  • People with IC may feel mild discomfort to severe pain in the pelvis.
  • Symptoms are similar to urinary tract infections, but there is no infection.
  • Researchers are not sure what causes IC.

Signs and symptoms

Close-up of a woman's torso, hands on her abdomen. Illustration shows her kidneys and bladder overlaid.
Symptoms mostly occur near the bladder.

People with IC can have many different symptoms. They occur below the belly button, near the bladder.

Symptoms can include:

  • Discomfort, pressure, or tenderness in the pelvis.
  • Constant or extreme pain in the bladder or pelvis.
  • Urgent need to pee.
  • Peeing a lot or more than usual.
  • Intense pain while peeing or needing to pee.

Who is at risk

  • IC is common and affects people of all ages, races, and ethnicities.
    • IC affects about 1% of people in the United States.
  • Women are more likely to develop IC than men.
    • Almost twice as many women have IC than men.


If you think you have IC, see a health care provider. They will first rule out other bladder conditions before diagnosing you with IC.

Treatment and recovery

There is no single treatment for people with IC. Your health care provider may develop a personalized treatment plan for you.

Your treatment plan may include:

  • Lifestyle changes like
    • Eating well.
    • Managing stress.
    • Being active.
    • Ending tobacco use.
  • Bladder retraining to improve bladder control and extend the time between peeing.
  • Physical therapy to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles through exercises.
  • Medicine for your pain and symptoms to be taken as directed by your provider.
  • Procedures, such as injections or surgery, to relieve your symptoms.

Some of these treatments may work better for you than others. You may also need a combination of them to manage your symptoms.

What CDC is doing

CDC is working with Boston Children's Hospital to:

  • Understand the link between IC and other conditions.
  • Identify the populations most affected by IC.
  • Look at how health disparities affect IC diagnosis and treatment. This includes limited access to care.
  • Study the long-term effect of IC on the health of people who have it.

Through this partnership, CDC is helping to educate providers about self-care methods to treat IC.