Painful Bladder Syndrome 

Also known as interstitial cystitis (IC), painful bladder syndrome causes the bladder walls to become inflamed, resulting in pressure and discomfort in the pelvic region as well as an increased urge to urinate. While IC affects men, women and children, it is much more common in women and is diagnosed in up to 1.2 million females in the U.S. every year.  

Causes of Painful Bladder Syndrome

The precise cause of painful bladder syndrome remains unclear, but researchers have linked it to a variety of medical conditions, including: 

  • Allergies 
  • Autoimmune disease 
  • Bladder lining defects 
  • Abnormalities in Mast cells 
  • Vascular disease 
  • Unidentified infections 
  • Abnormal substances in the urine 
  • Changes in nerves that carry bladder sensations 

Symptoms of Painful Bladder Syndrome 

While every patient may experience painful bladder syndrome differently, there are some common symptoms associated with the condition. Symptoms often worsen during a woman’s menstrual cycle.  

Signs of painful bladder syndrome often include: 

  • Pain in the urethra, lower abdomen or pelvic area 
  • Frequent urination 
  • Pain when the bladder is filling 
  • Pain in the vulva or vagina (women) 
  • Pain in the scrotum, testicles or penis (men) 
  • sexual intercourse 

It should be noted that increased stress may intensify the symptoms.  

Diagnosing Painful Bladder Syndrome 

A definitive test to diagnose painful bladder syndrome has not yet been developed. Because many symptoms are similar to those of other urinary disorders, it’s often necessary to rule out other conditions through a variety of tests. Therefore, a doctor may order: 

  • A urinalysis to look for any organisms, signs of infection, red or white blood cells or excessive proteins 
  • A bladder wall biopsy to rule out bladder cancer and other conditions 
  • A cystoscopy, in which a small instrument is passed through the urethra and into the bladder so the doctor can examine it more closely 

Treatments for Painful Bladder Syndrome 

There is no cure for painful bladder syndrome, so treatment is often focused on relieving the symptoms.  

Some treatment options include: 

  • Bladder retraining to hold urine for a longer period of time 
  • Bladder distension to increase bladder capacity 
  • Oral medications to help reduce pain 
  • Bladder instillation, which fills the bladder with a solution that helps reduce symptoms 
  • Electrical nerve stimulation 

Tampa General Hospital treats a wide range of urological conditions. We take a multidisciplinary approach to ensure the best outcomes for both male and female patients.