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Interstitial cystitis (inter-STI-shal SIS-tie-TIS), commonly referred to as bladder pain syndrome, is a chronic and painful condition that affects the bladder. The bladder is the organ that stores urine. Symptoms of bladder pain syndrome (BPS) include frequent urination, discomfort if not urinating, discomfort with urination, as well as pain in the bladder area (in the midline area below the bikini line). These symptoms may mimic the symptoms of a urinary tract infection although no infection exists. The exact reason for BPS is not known. Diagnosis is often not straightforward. However, trained physicians are much more aware of the symptoms and are able to correctly identify the condition. Many patients with interstitial cystitis present with complaints of chronic pelvic pain as well. Due to the many potential causes of pain in the lower pelvis, the diagnosis may be less obvious in these cases. However, the diagnosis may still be identified and appropriate therapy given.

Diagnosis and treatment may include a cystoscopy (a brief procedure performed commonly in the office to examine the bladder and urethra using a camera), as well as medications to help calm the bladder such as bladder instillations (filling the bladder with a medication that helps relieve the discomfort). These treatments often allow the patient to recover from the debilitating pain that often restricts a patient’s sexual and social life.

Treatment options

Your physician may identify inflammatory findings of painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis during a cystoscopy exam. Typically, these patients experience urinary urgency and frequency, along with an annoying pressure or pain in their bladder.

No standardized therapy exists for the management of interstitial cystitis. Treatment often begins with dietary modification to identify dietary triggers that could potentially impact your bladder. Caffeine is known to flare bladder symptoms. For some, tomatoes and/or citrus fruits can also have an effect, but not every patient has dietary triggers.

Putting medication directly into the bladder (bladder instillation) to alleviate symptoms can be done in the office setting. This is accomplished by inserting a small catheter into the bladder, then flushing medication through the catheter into the bladder. When the catheter is removed, the medication remains in the bladder until the patient voids. There are different medications that are used for this procedure.

Hydro-distension is a surgical procedure performed under anesthesia in the operating room. Using a cystoscope inside the bladder, the bladder is filled with fluid until it is maximally full. This stretching technique can provide relief to some patients with painful bladder syndrome.

Other experimental treatments exist as well.

Our physicians are highly trained in the management of bladder pain syndrome.

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