Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome) Diagnosis and Treatment

Mercy's gynecologists and urologists cover a broad range of urologic conditions. Our doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating common and complex urinary tract disorders, including interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome.

About Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic condition that causes pressure or pain in the bladder. Pain can range from uncomfortable burning to severe pain. While the condition can affect both men and children, it is most commonly found in women.

Over time, painful bladder syndrome can become permanent, leading the bladder to hold less urine and requiring frequent bathroom trips. Frequent urination can affect sexual relations with partners, result in sleep deprivation and contribute to emotional distress.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Painful bladder syndrome symptoms vary by person and fluctuate over time. Symptoms can include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Persistent urgent need or frequent need to urinate

These symptoms are similar to those of other conditions such as urinary tract infection and urinary incontinence, and patients often experience both pain and urinary discomfort with this illness.

The first step in diagnosing interstitial cystitis is a medical exam. Patients can aid the process by keeping a bladder diary prior to a doctor’s appointment which records liquid intake and how often and how much urine is passed on each visit to the bathroom. Additional diagnostic tools include:

Treatment Options for Interstitial Cystitis

There is no single treatment for interstitial cystitis. A variety of medications and therapies may be prescribed for relief.

Treatment options may include:

  • Oral medications
  • Nerve stimulation to reduce pelvic pain and decrease frequent urination
  • Bladder stretching
  • Direct prescription insertion in bladder
  • Surgery (in rare cases)

Patients may have to experience several treatments before they find the one that works for them. Sometimes, at-home treatments like dietary changes, bladder training, pelvic floor exercises or stress reduction techniques aid in reducing symptoms of painful bladder syndrome.