Diagnosis of Interstitial Cystitis

How do health care professionals diagnose IC?

Health care professionals will use your medical history, a physical exam, and lab tests to diagnose IC.

A health care professional will ask if you have a history of health problems related to IC. He or she will ask questions about your symptoms and other questions to help find the cause of your bladder problems.

If you are a woman who has IC symptoms, a health care professional may also perform a pelvic exam. During the pelvic exam, the health care professional will check your pelvic floor muscles to see if any of your painful symptoms are related to spasm in your pelvic floor muscles.

For men, a health care professional may perform a digital rectal exam to check for prostate problems and to check your pelvic floor muscles.

Doctors diagnose IC based on

What tests do doctors use to diagnose IC?

A health care professional may use the following tests to look inside your urethra and bladder, and may even take a tissue sample from inside your bladder. The health care professional will use tests to rule out certain diseases and conditions, such as UTI and bladder cancer. If the test results are normal and all other diseases and conditions are ruled out, your doctor may diagnose IC.

Urinalysis and urine culture

At the doctor’s office, you may be given a cup to take into the bathroom. A health care professional will give you instructions for collecting urine in the cup. White and red blood cells and bacteria in the urine may indicate a UTI, which can be treated with an antibiotic.

Cystoscopy

Doctors may use cystoscopy to look inside the urethra and bladder. Doctors use a cystoscope, a tubelike instrument, to look for bladder ulcers, cancer, swelling, redness, and signs of infection. The tip of this long, thin scope is guided gently up the urethra and into the bladder.

Illustration of cystoscopy. A cross-section shows the cystoscope inserted into the urethra. Fluid flows from a bag through the cystoscope to fill the bladder. The uterus, vagina, anus, and rectum are shown in the cross section.
A doctor may perform a cystoscopy to diagnose interstitial cystitis (IC).

During a cystoscopy, the doctor fills your bladder with fluid. Because a cystoscopy may be painful, your doctor may recommend having it done as an outpatient procedure with general anesthesia or in the office with a local anesthetic.

Sometimes a doctor will perform a biopsy to remove tissue samples from the bladder and urethra during a cystoscopy to help rule out bladder cancer. If you have a stone in your bladder, the doctor can remove it during the cystoscopy as well.

January 2017
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.