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Disability Benefits for Interstitial Cystitis (IC)

Social Security Disability Attorneys: Riverside, Orange & San Bernardino Counties

Interstitial Cystitis (IC)

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic painful bladder condition. Females are more often affected than males. More than 200,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the country. It can affect children and adults.

The symptoms of interstitial cystitis simulate a urinary tract infection, but when urine cultures are performed, there is no infection and the cultures are negative. The cause of interstitial cystitis is not known, but its symptoms can be persistent, recurrent, and may last a life-time. While there is treatment, there is no cure.

The Mayo Clinic describes IC this way: “The bladder expands until it's full and then signals your brain that it's time to urinate, communicating through the pelvic nerves. This creates the urge to urinate for most people. With interstitial cystitis, these signals get mixed up — you feel the need to urinate more often and with smaller volumes of urine than most people.” [Reference: diseases-conditions/interstitial-cystitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354357]

The diagnosis of interstitial cystitis is established when other conditions have been ruled out, such as a urinary tract infection. Therefore, urinalysis and urine cultures are performed (which usually are negative). Referral to a urologist for cystoscopy (examining the inside of the bladder with an instrument) is often required.

Symptoms include pain and pressure in the bladder and pelvic area, a feeling of urgency (a need to urgently empty the bladder), and frequency (a frequent urge to urinate). Patients who suffer from interstitial cystitis may have to continuously pass small amounts of urine, throughout the day and night, up to 60 times in 24-hour period.

Treatment with antibiotics doesn't work (because interstitial cystitis is not an infection). Treatments that can be helpful include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), pelvic floor exercises, physical therapy, and biofeedback. Botox instillations into the inside of the bladder may help.

The Harvard Health Letter has listed the medications that have been most commonly used to treat IC as follows. [Reference:]

Medications for the treatment of interstitial cystitis



Oral drugs

Tricyclic antidepressants

Taken at low doses, tricyclic antidepressants relax the bladder and hinder the release of neurochemicals that can cause bladder pain and inflammation. They may also improve sleep. Amitriptyline (Elavil) is the medication most commonly prescribed for interstitial cystitis. Side effects include sleepiness, dry mouth, and weight gain.

Pentosan polysulfate sodium (Elmiron)

The only oral medication approved by the FDA specifically for the treatment of IC, Elmiron is thought to help repair defects in the bladder lining. It can take several months to reduce pain and urinary frequency, and the effect may be modest. Serious side effects are rare. If Elmiron doesn't work in six months, stop taking it.


The antihistamine hydroxyzine (Atarax, Rezine, Vistaril, others) is thought to block mast cells' release of histamine in the bladder. It helps in relieving pain, urinary frequency, and (because it's sedating) nighttime urination. Some clinicians recommend cimetidine (Tagamet) and ranitidine (Zantac), which are a different type of antihistamine, but there's little evidence to support their use.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium) and acetaminophen can help relieve pain.

Cyclosporine A

In early studies, this immunosuppressant drug helped relieve symptoms, but its use is limited by serious side effects — including uncontrollable trembling, muscle or joint pain, and enlarged gums.

Bladder instillations

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)

DMSO instilled in the bladder was FDA-approved for the treatment of IC in the 1970s. It helps relax the bladder and alleviate pain. Treatment involves weekly instillations for six to eight weeks and then every two weeks for three or more months.

Heparin and lidocaine

Some clinicians combine one or both of these drugs with Elmiron (as a bladder instillation) and other medications in "rescue instillations" administered to quickly reduce pain and inflammation and help restore the mucus in the bladder.


Interstitial cystitis can be non-ulcerative or ulcerative. The non-ulcerative type is less severe. Approximately 90% of patients have the non-ulcerative form. When the bladder is examined with a cystoscope, the inside of the bladder wall has multiple pinpoint hemorrhages (known as “glomerulations”). In the more severe “ulcerative” form of interstitial cystitis, which occurs in about 10% of patients, cystoscopy shows ulcerations of the bladder wall, with red, bleeding areas (known as “Hunner's” patches).

In “End Stage” interstitial cystitis, patients can develop very hard bladders with low capacity and terrible pain. [Reference:]

Disability Benefits for Interstitial Cystitis

Patients with severe forms of interstitial cystitis may be disabled from even a sedentary (“desk job”) occupation if their symptoms cause severe bladder and pelvic pain, and if they require very frequent and repeated bathroom breaks through a work day.

These kinds of symptoms may make it impossible to sit for 6 hours or more, stand/walk for 2 hours or more, and lift/carry 10 pounds or more. Functional restrictions such as these would likely qualify an applicant for long-term disability (LTD) benefits under either Social Security (SSDI) and/or an employer-sponsored group disability plan (ERISA).

At Law Med, we are familiar with interstitial cystitis and can work with your doctor to help you get disability benefits. 

How We Can Help

Our medical experts will review your case and get to know the variations of your condition. This translates into helping the legal experts know how to argue your case and fight for the benefits you deserve.