Do You Suffer From Painful Bladder Syndrome?

Interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome is a chronic bladder condition that’s associated with pain, pressure, or discomfort that stems from the bladder.  Thus that seems to be coming from the bladder and is associated with urinary frequency and/or an urge to urinate. It is estimated that 3.3 million women and 1.6 million men in the U.S. suffer from some form of IC.

What is interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome?

Painful bladder syndrome is a chronic bladder condition whose symptoms may be mild or severe, occasional or constant.  It is not an infection, but its symptoms can feel like those of a bladder infection.  In women, it is often associated with pain upon intercourse.  

Who is at risk for painful bladder syndrome?

There are both genetic and gender risk factors for painful bladder syndrome. Genetically, if a relative has had the condition you are at higher risk.   Furthermore, about 80% of people diagnosed with the condition are women.  However, the difference in rates of this syndrome between the genders, may not really be as high as reported, as male inflammatory conditions like prostatitis may some men diagnosed with "prostatitis" or similar conditions with different labels may really have this chronic disorder.  

What causes painful bladder syndrome?

The actual cause of painful bladder syndrome is unknown, but there are several theories.  Some theories include:

1. Autoimmune condition

2. A defect in the bladder epithelium

3. Stems from an inflammatory cell releasing chemicals that promote symptoms

4.  Something in the urine that damages the bladder

5. Stems from a nervous system condition 

What are the symptoms of painful bladder syndrome?

The symptoms vary but typically include urinary frequency, urgency or pain, pressure, and discomfort.  These symptoms are perceived to stem from the bladder.  

How is painful bladder syndrome diagnosed?

Currently, there is no test so far that is completely accurate, but typical tests for evaluation include:

·         Medical history, physical exam and urine tests

·         Cystoscopy

·         Urodynamics

How is painful bladder syndrome treated?

Because no one knows the cause of painful bladder syndrome, no single treatment works for everyone, and no treatment is "the best."  Treatment must be chosen individually for each patient, based on his or her symptoms.  Oral medication exists for treatment, but is only effective in 30% of patients.  The most common ones are oral hydroxyzine, oral amitriptyline and instillation of heparin into the bladder through a catheter.  The most important thing to remember is that none of these treatments works immediately and usually takes weeks to months before symptoms improve.