Causes and Risk Factors for IC

IC is a poorly understood disease with unknown causes. Although no bacteria or viruses (pathogens) have been found in the urine of IC sufferers, an unidentified infectious agent may be the cause. Others believe that IC occurs with ischemia (tissue death) or a deficiency of GAG in the epithelium of unknown cause, although genetic predispositions in some patients have been documented.

It may be an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks healthy cells, perhaps following a bladder infection. Spasms of the pelvic floor muscles may also contribute to the symptoms of IC. It is likely that several factors in combination cause the condition.

Other conditions associated with IC include the following:

  • Asthma
  • Endometriosis
  • Food allergies
  • Hay fever (pollen allergy)
  • Incontinence
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Migraine
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sinusitis
  • Vulvadynia and vulvar vestibulitis

The connection between IC and these conditions is not well understood.

IC may occur following gynecological surgery. Some evidence suggests an increased risk for IC in Jews; and studies of mothers, daughters, and twins who suffer from it suggest a hereditary risk factor.

Publication Review By: David M. Kaufman, M.D., Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 09 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 22 Sep 2015