Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Interstitial Cystitis

The exact cause of interstitial cystitis is currently not known, but researchers suspect the following conditions play a role:

  • Damage to the epithelium, or lining of the bladder
  • Autoimmune reaction
  • Allergic reaction
  • Infection
  • Irritating substance in the urine
  • Nerve disorder
  • Heredity

Risk factors  

Risk factors for interstitial cystitis include:

  • Gender: Women are more likely to have interstitial cystitis.
  • Age: Most patients are older, with symptoms beginning as early as the 30s or 40s.
  • Coloring: Those with red hair and fair skin are more likely to have it.
  • Chronic pain: There may be a link to fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic inflammation diseases.

Diagnosing interstitial cystitis 

Since the symptoms of interstitial cystitis mimic other conditions, your physician may want to rule out the following before making a diagnosis:

If the tests for those conditions are negative, yet you have had bladder pain for more than six weeks, the interstitial cystitis might be suspected. Further testing could include:

  • Biopsy: For this test, a small tissue sample is removed from the body and examined.
  • Complex uroflowmetry: This procedure measures the amount of urine in the bladder and the rate at which the urine flows.
  • Cystometry: Also called a cystometrogram, this procedure is administered to measure pressure in the bladder. The test requires patients to perform certain maneuvers while their bladder is being filled gently with sterile water through a catheter.
  • Pelvic ultrasound: This imaging test uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the organs.
  • Post-void residual study: This determines how much urine remains in the bladder after urination.
  • Potassium sensitivity test: Your physician will test your sensitivity to a solution of potassium chloride vs. water instilled in your bladder. If you can’t tell the difference, you likely don’t have interstitial cystitis.
  • Pressure-flow voiding study: This test determines the ability of the bladder and urethra to properly expel urine.
  • Urinalysis: Your urine will be checked under a microscope for the presence of infection or blood.