Bladder Disorders Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis, sometimes called painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic and painful inflammation of the bladder wall. Stress appears to aggravate bladder pain and spasms, but the exact causes of interstitial cystitis are unclear: tests for infections usually come back negative. Researchers believe that painful bladder syndrome may actually be several different diseases combined, as bladder pains, spasms and duration of the disease vary widely from patient to patient.

Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis

Symptoms of painful bladder syndrome are similar to many other bladder diseases. The patient urinates frequently, often having to get up several times at night to urinate. Due to involuntary bladder spasms, patients feel sudden, urgent needs to urinate, and a burning sensation when urinating. Interstitial cystitis sufferers also experience mild to severe bladder pain. Symptoms may clear up seemingly at random, only to resurface later.

Some 700,000 people in the United States suffer from interstitial cystitis, with ninety percent of these patients being women. Why women are more susceptible to painful bladder syndrome than men is not known.

Diagnosis of interstitial cystitis begins by ruling out other bladder disorders. Once this is done, a cystoscopic exam may be called for. With the patient under anesthesia the doctor inserts a thin tube into the bladder to examine the bladder walls. Small hemorrhages or ulcers on the bladder walls would suggest a possible diagnosis of interstitial cystitis.

Treatment and Management Options



Lifestyle Changes

Some patients with interstitial cystitis find that reducing the level of caffeine in their diet, avoiding bladder-irritating foods such as grapefruit, and quitting smoking eases their symptoms. Stress reduction techniques also help some patients.

Aspirin / Ibuprofen

Used by patients to manage relatively low levels of bladder pain.

Bladder Distention

Performed under anesthetic, a gas or liquid inflates the bladder, temporarily enlarging it. This helps reduce the frequency with which patients need to urinate.

Bladder Instillation

Medications, most commonly dimethyl sulfoxide, are inserted into the bladder in liquid form through a catheter. The medication is held in the bladder for 10-15 minutes, and works directly on the inflamed bladder walls.


Elmiron is an FDA approved oral medication for interstitial cystitis. Unfortunately, patients may not notice any relief for up to four months after beginning the medication.


A last resort when treating painful bladder syndrome, surgery may involve removing ulcerous tissue or burning ulcers off the bladder with a laser. Augmentation surgery uses a section of the large intestine to make the bladder larger, reducing the frequency of urination.

Resources (nd). About interstitial cystitis. Retrieved March 6, 2002, from (updated 2001). Interstitial cystitis. Retrieved March 5, 2002, from

Interstitial Cystitis Association. (updated 2002). Interstitial cystitis. Retrieved March 5, 2002, from

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (updated 2000). Interstitial cystitis. Retrieved March 5, 2002, from