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Interstitial Cystitis
(Painful Bladder Syndrome)

Interstitial cystitis, also called painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic condition causing bladder pressure, bladder pain and sometimes pelvic pain.

The urge and frequency to urinate can be almost constant and can have a debilitating impact on quality of life. It’s estimated 2.8% of Canadian women are affected. Although there’s no cure, medications and other therapies may offer relief.


The signs and symptoms of interstitial cystitis vary from person to person. If you have interstitial cystitis, your symptoms may also vary over time, periodically flaring in response to common triggers, such as menstruation, sitting for a long time, stress, exercise and sexual activity.

The most common sign of interstitial cystitis is bladder pain, accompanied with a sensation of pressure. The pain normally gets worse as the bladder fills.

The urge to urinate is far beyond the norm. A patient with interstitial cystitis may feel the need up to 60 times, day and night.

Interstitial cystitis signs and symptoms include:

  • Chronic pelvic pain.
  • A persistent, urgent need to urinate.
  • Frequent urination, often of small amounts.
  • Pain or discomfort while the bladder fills and relief after urinating.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse.

Symptom Management

Diet and lifestyle choices may help reduce the symptoms of painful bladder syndrome.

  • Avoid citrus fruits
  • Avoid spicy food
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol
  • Drink water to stay hydrated
  • Take warm baths
  • Manage stress

Interstitial cystitis can lead to isolation or depression, so it is also important to seek counselling for the necessary support in dealing with the condition.

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Causes of Painful Bladder Syndrome

Currently the cause of interstitial cystitis is unknown. There may be a connection to other diseases including chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. People with interstitial cystitis may also have a defect in the protective lining (epithelium) of the bladder. A leak in the epithelium may allow toxic substances in urine to irritate your bladder wall.

Other possible but unproven contributing factors include an autoimmune reaction, heredity, infection or allergy. Patients are typically women under 50. A family history of the condition may increase your risk.


The doctor will conduct a pelvic exam and take a history of symptoms. There is no definitive test to prove interstitial cystitis but tests typically include:

Urine tests: Urinalysis, urine culture, urine cytology
Cystoscopy: Tube and tiny camera inserted for visual of bladder

painful bladder treatment with urologist in laval

Risk Factors

These factors are associated with a higher risk of interstitial cystitis:
Your sex. Women are diagnosed with interstitial cystitis more often than men. Symptoms in men may mimic interstitial cystitis, but they’re more often associated with an inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis).

Your skin and hair color. Having fair skin and red hair has been associated with a greater risk of interstitial cystitis.

Your age. Most people with interstitial cystitis are diagnosed during their 30s or older.
Having a chronic pain disorder. Interstitial cystitis may be associated with other chronic pain disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome or fibromyalgia.

Interstitial Cystitis Treatment

Painful bladder syndrome is a relatively common problem, and though there is no known cure, the symptoms can be treated to provide sufferers with relief.

  • Oral Medications: For pain and inflammation
  • Bladder Neuromodulator: Neuromodulator injections have proven effective in reducing urinary frequency but additional treatment may be needed for pain
  • Neurostimulation: A small wire embedded under the skin just above the tailbone sends out a mild electrical pulse to stop the brain from triggering symptoms.
  • Open Surgery: the bladder is removed and patients use a catheter to divert urine to a bag.

Bladder surgery is considered a last resort for patients with debilitating symptoms. The majority of patients will not require such an extreme solution.




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