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Painful Bladder Syndrome

What Is Painful Bladder Syndrome?

Painful bladder syndrome — also known as interstitial cystitis — is a chronic condition that causes mild to severe pressure in the bladder. It can sometimes cause pelvic pain as well. The condition typically affects women and can have a significant impact on your quality of life.

A normal functioning bladder expands when it is full of urine, creating the urge to urinate. However, if you have interstitial cystitis, you will get the urge to urinate more frequently and when you go, you urinate a smaller amount.

The cause of interstitial cystitis has not been proven, though it is suspected that it may be related to a defect in the lining of the bladder, which allows toxic substances to aggravate the bladder wall.

Risk Factors

You are more at risk for painful bladder syndrome if you:


The symptoms of painful bladder syndrome can be different for each person. Stress, sitting for long periods of time, sexual activity, menstruation and exercise can cause flare-ups for some people. Symptoms of interstitial cystitis include:

  • Chronic pelvic pain

  • Frequent, urgent need to urinate

  • Pain during sexual intercourse

  • Pain between the anus and vagina (women) or anus and scrotum (men)

  • Pain when the bladder is full and a sense of relief after emptying the bladder

  • Urinating in small amounts as many as 60 times a day

  • Symptoms can get worse if you develop a urinary tract infection.

Treatment Options

While there is no cure for interstitial cystitis, there are treatments that may improve your quality of life. These include:

  • Bladder distension – This procedure uses water to stretch the bladder.

  • Bladder instillation – Doctors deliver medications directly into your bladder.

  • Nerve stimulation – These techniques help stimulate blood flow to the bladder or send electrical impulses to the bladder to help with urination frequency and urge.

  • Oral medications – These include antihistamines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, pentosan polysulfate sodium (Elmiron) or tricyclic antidepressants.

  • Physical therapy – A physical therapist may prescribe exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and other muscles that have pain related to interstitial cystitis.

  • Surgery – Surgery is rarely used to treat painful bladder syndrome, but in severe cases, a doctor may recommend a surgical procedure.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of painful bladder syndrome, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat painful bladder syndrome.