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About Interstitial Cystitis


Interstitial cystitis (IC) is part of a chronic disease process that can affect the bladder, the urethra, or the prostate in any combination.  It can cause any or all of these symptoms:


  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during or after sexual activity
  • Frequent urination
  • The sudden feeling that you need to urinate
















 C. Lowell Parsons, M.D.


If you have IC, you may have these symptoms in any mix or match.  On this web site, Dr. Lowell Parsons provides information to help answer these questions:


  • What are the symptoms of IC?
  • How can I find out if I have IC?
  • Is IC treatable?
  • What causes IC?


This web site also contains information for doctors who are caring for patients who have IC.


Dr. Parsons, a specialist in IC, is Professor of Surgery/Urology at the University of California, San Diego.  Dr. Parsons cares for patients from all over the world in his IC Clinic.  He has diagnosed and treated more than 7000 women and men who have IC, and he is one of the leading IC researchers in the world. 


For more information about Dr. Parsons, click here.


To see one of Dr. Parsons' latest articles on IC, click here.


What are the symptoms of IC?


A person who has IC may have any one or more of these symptoms:


  • Frequent urination (urinary frequency) -- urinating more than eight times in 24 hours is considered abnormal.


  • The feeling that you need to urinate (urinary urgency).  This feeling can be continuous or urgent or immediate, and often occurs when there are very small amounts of urine in the bladder, and often make it feel like you never empty your bladder.


  • Pain in one or more places anywhere between the belly button and the insides of the thighs, front or back (pelvic pain).  It can be mild or severe, chronic or intermittent, and in one or more locations in the pelvis.


Pelvic pain includes includes the lower abdomen, the lower back, the urethra, the area between the urethra and the rectum, the labia or the vagina (in women), and the scrotum (in men). 


Some people with IC urinate often, but they don't necessarily feel the urge to go.


IC usually develops very gradually, and the symptoms may come and go.  The symptoms can flare up after physical or emotional stress or after sexual activity.  Women who have IC often suffer flare-ups before the menstrual period.  In people who have allergies, symptoms may get worse during allergy season.


Some other facts about IC:


  • IC occurs in both women and men, but women are more likely to have IC than men are.


  • Three out of every four IC patients -- both women and men --have pain or symptom flares with sexual activity.


  • Men who have IC are often diagnosed with prostatitis even though they have bladder symptoms or frequency and urgency.  In fact, a number of studies have been reported showing that most men who are diagnosed with prostatitis have IC (or perhaps even both IC and prostatitis).



How can I find out if I have IC?


If you have some of the symptoms we have mentioned and:


  • You do not have a bladder infection that has been documented with a urine culture from a catheterized urine specimen,


  • You have been diagnosed with endometriosis, vulvodynia, yeast vaginitis, or pain with sex, and your symptoms keep coming back in spite of therapy,


fill out the PUF questionnaireOur research has shown that a person who has a PUF score of 5 or higher may have IC.


If you think you may have IC, the next step is to see your primary care doctor or your urologist.  You may want to take the PUF questionnaire with you so you can refer to it when you discuss your symptoms and your concerns with the doctor.


In addition to a history and physical examination and perhaps a urine culture, your doctor may have you take a Potassium Sensitivity Test (PST).  The PST is a test that your doctor can perform in his or her office.  The PST results will help your doctor determine whether or not you actually have IC.



Is IC treatable?


Yes.  We have very effective treatments for IC.  For more about IC treatment, click here.



What causes IC?


Normal urine contains salts that can irritate tissue.  For this reason, Mother Nature gave the bladder a protective lining called a mucus layer. A healthy mucus layer makes your bladder able to store urine safely and comfortably until you empty your bladder.  It prevents all the urinary toxins from leaking into your bladder wall and causing symptoms.


There are many theories about what causes IC.  Many doctors believe that most people with IC have a problem in their bladder lining.  As a result, the bladder is not protected well enough, and the bladder tissue actually suffers damage from the salts in urine -- especially from potassium.  Because of this damage, there is urgency or pain or both. 


Similar problems can occur in the urethra or the prostate.  Because the defective mucus and leaking potassium can also occur and affect various parts of the lower urinary tract, it is also known as Lower Urinary Dysfunctional Epithelium (LUDE).  Sometimes only one area may be involved, such as the urethra.


For more information, click here to see Dr. Parsons' article "Interstitial Cystitis and Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Males and Females -- the Combined Role of Potassium and Epithelial Dysfunction" in Reviews in Urology.



To schedule an appointment with Dr. Parsons


Dr. Parsons sees patients at the University of California San Diego Medical Center.  To schedule an appointment, please call:


Division of Urology

University of California San Diego Medical Center

(619) 543-5904



Links to Other Information Sites

Interstitial Cystitis Association

Interstitial Cystitis Network


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