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Interstitial Cystitis in Women

What You Should Know

(Essential Overview*)

The symptoms of a bladder infection can be mimicked by a chronic bladder disorder called interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome (PBS). As a matter of fact, more than two-thirds of all IC/PBS sufferers have a history of urinary tract infections.

In this insidious disorder the bladder is overly sensitive (a “touchy bladder”). The predominant symptom is pain in the pelvic area due to a chronic inflammation of the bladder lining. The pain and urgency can be so extreme and severe that may make work, sexual activity and normal social functioning difficult or just impossible.

Believed to be an autoimmune condition, interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome may stay about the same or get worse with time. Some people may go into remission for extended periods.

Unlike ordinary bladder infections, the cause or, rather, the causes of IC/PBS continue to baffle medical researchers. It is believed that interstitial cystitis may be the result of:

  • vasculitis (blood vessel disease),
  • autoimmune disease (such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disease, Addison’s disease, Graves’ disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, myasthenia gravis, autoimmune vasculitis, pernicious anemia, celiac disease),
  • an acid-alkali imbalance (brought about by environmental factors and diet),
  • presence of abnormal substances in the urine (such as hemoglobin, ketones, protein, urobilinogen),
  • an infection caused by a more elusive strain of bacteria, undetected by standard tests,
  • functional neurological disorder (FND), a complex condition where patients experience physical neurological symptoms, but without a clear structural problem in the nervous system (such as multiple sclerosis or stroke);
  • defective cells in the bladder lining (dysfunctional epithelium),
  • allergic reactions.

Several other disorders are associated with IC/PBS include:

  • Abdominal (stomach) migraine, similar to migraine headache – a neurological disease characterized by intense episodes of abdominal pain lasting two or more hours followed by long periods without symptoms.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a common disorder affecting the large intestine with cramping and abdominal pain;
  • Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) – a long-term condition that causes widespread muscle pain (all over the body);
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) – a complicated disorder characterized by an unexplained extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest);
  • Vulvodynia (pain or burning in the vulvar area, not caused by infection or skin disease).

Although interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome is most common in women, it can also occur in men and children.

*Based on various sources, our research and practical experience.

IC/PBS Epidemiology

Women outnumber men by as much as eight to one. The current estimate is that 3 to 8 million women suffer from this mysterious and insidious disease. Most women are diagnosed in their early 40s.

There is still no evidence that stress causes IC/PBS in the first place. However, it is well-known that if a person has it, physical or mental stress can make the symptoms worse.

Interstitial cystitis is not contagious. It does not spread in the body and does not seem to worsen with time. It is not a cause of bladder cancer.

For some women, the symptoms improve or disappear during pregnancy. For other women, they get worse. But it does not seem to affect fertility or the health of a fetus.

Medical IC/PBS Diagnosis

As experts do not know what causes IC/PBS, there is no standard medical test or technique that can say a person has it. Therefore, your doctor can rule out or treat – urinary tract infection, bacterial cystitis, chronic urethral syndrome, overactive bladder, vulvodynia, vaginal infection, endometriosis, sexually transmitted diseases, and bladder cancer.

Also, there is no test to say a person does not have interstitial cystitis. To make a diagnosis, your health care provider will first decide whether the symptoms are typical of IC/PBS. Next, your health provided needs to rule out other health issues that might be causing the symptoms.

Some believe that IC/PBS is present if a patient has symptoms and no other cause for those symptoms is found. Others believe that more tests are needed to find out whether the patient has IC/PBS.

A number of standard diagnostic tools include:

Urinalysis. A urine sample is studied under a microscope to check for blood or bacteria in the urine which may indicate urinary tract infection, urinary tract stones or other problems.

Urine culture. A urine sample is studied to determine if there are any bacteria growing in it. The bacteria are then tested to determine which drugs will most effectively treat them.

Urine cytology. An examination of the cells from the bladder lining that are in the urine.

Cystoscopy. This is the main diagnostic tool for interstitial cystitis. The procedure allows the urologist to look directly into the bladder. A thin, flexible tube called a cystoscope is gently inserted into the bladder through the urethra.

Cystoscopy with hydrodistention. In this procedure the bladder is stretched or filled to a high pressure with fluid (hydrodistended). Then, the urologist examines the inside of the bladder for tiny bleeding hemorrhages, called glomerulations, on the bladder wall. Glomerulations are a major symptom of IC/PBS in 95 percent of patients.

As an outpatient procedure under regional or general anesthesia, cystoscopy with hydrodistention is used to diagnose and sometimes treat interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome.

Standard IC/PBS Treatments

There is no medicinal cure for interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome, but many medical treatments offer some relief, either singly or in combination. Figuring out what works can be hit-or-miss, as there is no way to predict who will respond best to which treatment.

IC/PBS medical treatments, aimed at easing symptoms, may include:

  • Bladder enlargement (augmentation). It is an operation to make the bladder larger and increase its capacity. It can also lower the pressure in the bladder (making it more elastic) and interfere with pain signals sent by the nerve cells in the bladder.
  • Bladder wash (instillation). It delivers medication to the bladder with a solution that is held in the bladder for a short period of time (from a few seconds to 15 minutes), then drained with a catheter.
  • Prescription Medicines. There are many different drugs that may be used (taken by mouth or put right into the bladder). It should be noted that antibiotics are ineffective.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Mild electric pulses enter the body for minutes to hours. This is done 2 or more times a day. The pulses are sent through wires placed on the lower back. Or through special devices put into the vagina. For some people, TENS eases bladder pain and urinary frequency and urgency.
  • Sacral neuromodulation (delivered via the InterStim™ system). It is a treatment option for bladder control. An implant electrically stimulate the sacral nerve which is thought to normalize neural communication between the bladder and brain. This treatment, however, may be effective in addressing the frequency associated with interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome, but not the relief of pain.
  • Bladder training. Urinating at certain times and using relaxation methods and distractions to help keep to schedule. And trying, over time, to lengthen the time between the scheduled urinations.
  • Physical therapy. It may be used in select cases, especially for treatment of associated pelvic floor muscle spasm.
  • Surgery (cystectomy) with urinary diversion. In severe cases, removal of the bladder, or part of the bladder, if other treatments do not work. A treatment of last resort.

Recommended Lifestyle Changes

When you have been diagnosed you will first be offered the ways, in which you can help yourself, like lifestyle changes. The symptoms then can be managed with:

  • Changing diet. Certain products including, but not limited to, coffee, alcoholic beverages, citrus fruits, tomatoes, carbonated drinks, and spicy food have been associated with exacerbation of symptoms. A trial of elimination of such foods and beverages, especially acidic, may be worthwhile. Without any doubt, diet plays an important role in keeping IC under control.
  • Not smoking. As nicotine irritates the bladder, smoking cessation can help to reduce the symptoms.
  • Exercising. Exercise may help ease symptoms or make them stop for a while. It can also speed remission.
  • Reducing stress. There is no proof that stress causes IC/PBS. But if a person has it, stress can make the symptoms worse.
  • Taking nutritional supplements. There are many supplements available – over-the-counter (OTC) or in health food stores, such as chondroitin sulfate and quercetin. They may help reverse the damage done to the urothelium, which normally acts as a barrier against insults to the bladder.

Many women suffering from interstitial cystitis have also gotten some great results after using the following specialty dietary/herbal supplements:

It should be noted that interstitial cystitis does not get better with antibiotics.

Women Write to Us


I have been diagnosed with interstitial cystitis. And over the past two years, I have taken so many antibiotics for that. On my last visit to my urologist, after having a cystoscopy, he recommended that I should try D-Mannose to help me get away from antibiotics. I was using it but still had a couple of full-blown UTIs.

After a huge amount of research to help my recurring UTIs, I came upon your webpage. Since then I have not looked back.

I have only been taking the Uribiotic Formula, d-Mannose MAX and oregano oil for approximately two weeks now, feeling great, back to a normal healthy relationship with my husband.

I showed these products to my Naturopath who is very interested as there is nothing close to that in Australia. With my great results, she is going to forward your webpage to her patients.

Well done and thank you for helping me to feel normal again. And if I can help others here with my testimony I will be more than happy to recommend your Uribiotic.

I will be very happy to order again as I am going to take these products as an ongoing prevention, not just to treat when I get an UTI, to continue good health.

Kind regards,

Kathy A.


I have had interstitial cystitis (IC) for eight years. A couple of months ago, I had a bladder infection and wanted to find a natural antibiotic for bladder infections.

After doing thorough research on natural antibiotics, I decided to try Uribiotic Formula. When I started I felt comfort within 24 hours.

After using Uribiotic for a month, knowing my symptoms were gone, I stopped taking it.

Within a couple of weeks, I again felt discomfort. I then realized that Uribiotic was helping my IC.

I am now taking it on a daily basis: two tablets (and good probiotics) in the morning and in the evening. This is helping my IC tremendously.

Thank you for a great product!

Feeling normal,


Seattle, Washington, USA

Dear Uribiotic Team,

I have had recurrent UTIs for the past few years. My doctor usually just gives me Bactrim, which clears it up within 3 days. While on vacation, recently I got another one the first day of my trip and panicked because the pain always seems unbearable.

I was able to get another prescription for Bactrim, but after 2 doses (6 days) I felt even worse. Two weeks later and 2 courses of Cipro, I was at my wits end!

My doctor told me there weren’t any bacteria in my urine, so it could be something else like urethritis or interstitial cystitis. I didn’t care what it was, I just wanted to get rid of it and prevent it from ever coming back.

In desperation I went online and researched as much as I could. I found your website and it has been a life-saver.

I started feeling better after the first couple days of taking the Uribiotic Formula. After the second bottle I was back to normal.

I couldn’t believe how fast it worked. And that there were no side effects like with antibiotics.

Since then I’ve also started taking your D-Mannose MAX and UT ProbioticsUltra formulas for prevention, and I haven’t had any UTI symptoms since.

Thank you so much for your very informative website and very effective natural products.

Annie S.

Juneau, Alaska, USA

How Do I Know if I Have One?

(Symptoms Questionnaire)

The symptoms of interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome vary from person to person. And at different times you may have different symptoms. Sometimes, they go away by themselves – but may return unexpectedly.

At times, the symptoms may resemble those of a chronic urinary tract infection, but there is usually no infection in interstitial cystitis. However, when you do have IC/PBS, the symptoms may worsen if get a UTI.

Think you might have IC/PBS and/or interested in getting a second opinion?

No problem!

Please fill in the two-part questionnaire below, answering all questions thoughtfully and to the best of your knowledge.

Within 12 to 24 hours, we will e-mail you back the results along with our brief recommendations (if necessary) that may help you get your urinary health back on track.

The information given is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or replace the advice of a doctor or other healthcare professional.

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