One of the most misunderstood pain issues related to the bladder is called interstitial cystitis (IC), which is also known as bladder pain syndrome (BPS).
A large population of men and women over the age of 40 may experience pain or discomfort in their bladder region for a large number of reasons.
Understanding the factors related to bladder pain syndrome is highly critical, because if you ignore this discomfort for too long, it can have severe consequences. Additionally, if this syndrome goes misdiagnosed, you may have a harder time treating it and getting over it.
We've put this guide together so that you can learn everything there is to know about interstitial cystitis or bladder pain syndrome, and deal with this condition the right way.
What is Bladder Pain Syndrome/Interstitial Cystitis?
Interstitial cystitis or bladder pain syndrome is a chronic ailment that causes severe pain and discomfort in the bladder region of the body1. Many people seem to feel pressure in their lower abdomen, which is generally triggered by bladder pain.
Bladder pain syndrome or interstitial cystitis occurs when the bladder lining gets inflamed and results in pelvic pain. This illness is usually seen in both men and women over the age of 40. Some might equate this lower abdomen pain to a bladder infection. However, interstitial cystitis is a different condition than an infection.
If you mistake interstitial cystitis with an infection and treat it accordingly, chances are you will not feel any relief. The pain and discomfort will persist even after weeks of treating your bladder for an infection.
The pain and discomfort might range from mild to severe in different people. However, it can exponentially increase if it goes unchecked, and this makes it very difficult for people to carry on with their lives.
Most Common Symptoms of Bladder Pain Syndrome
The symptoms of bladder pain syndrome can seem a little ambiguous. These symptoms are generally isolated to the groin region; however, in certain cases, the pain can be felt in other regions of the body too.
Here are some of the common symptoms of bladder pain syndrome.
Bladder pain syndrome first manifests itself as frequent urination. This is the first symptom of bladder pain syndrome, and both men and women can experience it. However, this symptom is frequently misinterpreted, because frequent urination could be caused by a myriad of diseases.
Pain in Bladder
As the name suggests, the most common symptom of bladder pain syndrome is experiencing pain in the bladder. This pain can range from mild to severe depending on the person and the duration they have endured this issue. Bladder pain occurs in the lower abdomen, and people often feel pressure in the region.
Pain or Pressure Sensation in Lower Abdomen and Groin
Another symptom of bladder pain syndrome is a pain in the general groin area and the abdomen. Both men and women can experience pain in their groin and gonadal regions.
For instance, pain can manifest itself near the penis, behind the scrotum, testicles, etc. While for women, the general vaginal region can experience this pain.
Pain During Sexual Intercourse
Many women who have bladder pain syndrome experience extreme pain during sexual intercourse. The pressure in the bladder can stimulate extreme pain during sexual activity for most people who suffer from this issue.
Bladder spasms are not a very common symptom men and women experience with bladder pain syndrome. However, bladder spasms are experienced by a select few in some cases. This happens when you have no control over the contractions of your bladder muscles. Your bladder could contract without any warning, giving you the sensation to urinate.
These symptoms may seem very ambiguous and vague to a lot of people. However, if you speculate that you have IC or interstitial cystitis, you can get tested for it immediately.
Here are a few tests that can confirm whether you have IC or not.
- Through urine samples: You can submit a urine sample to be examined. However, some samples do come back with a false negative result. So, make sure you double-check with your physician or healthcare professional before going ahead with treatment.
- Cystoscopy: The process involves the doctor inserting a long scope up your urethra to check your bladder from the inside.
- Ultrasounds and CT scans: You can also get an ultrasound or a CT scan to check if your bladder lining is inflamed.
Top Causes of Bladder Pain Syndrome
Bladder pain is essentially the inflammation of the lining of your bladder. There can be numerous reasons why this illness arises.
Many studies show that people with bladder pain syndrome have shown APF or antiproliferative factors2 in their bodies. This protein is produced by the cells of people who have interstitial cystitis, but not healthy people.
It is speculated that the protein APF is responsible for this inflammation around the bladder. The production of this protein can be triggered by trauma.
Any trauma to the pelvis or your bladder can result in the bladder pain syndrome. This usually happens after invasive surgeries that are close to the bladder. Apart from this, any external trauma directed to the bladder can result in sharp pain in the bladder.
Dysfunctional Pelvic Floor
If your pelvic floor muscles are weak or have endured any trauma, they might become dysfunctional. This can also lead to bladder pain syndrome.
If your body begins to produce autoantibodies that attack the cells of your bladder lining, you are likely to experience sharp pains in your bladder that could lead to bladder pain syndrome. This cause is not as common, but it has been seen in a few cases of the illness.
Bacterial infections that affect your urinary tract and bladder could result in the inflammation of your bladder lining. You can treat yourself for the bacterial infection in your urinary tract. However, you must also consider getting checked for interstitial cystitis just in case.
An overdistended bladder is a serious condition that could lead to a large number of diseases. It is referred to as the inability of your bladder to hold urine properly. The inefficient emptying of your bladder could cause bladder pain syndrome as a result.
Medications and Treatments Suggested for Bladder Pain Syndrome or Interstitial Cystitis
Bladder pain syndrome can be treated in numerous ways. While some people may wish to treat each symptom separately, others want to get rid of interstitial cystitis as a whole. People can take medication or even try various methods to treat bladder pain syndrome.
Note: Before deciding to take any medications, or partaking in any medical treatments or surgeries, be sure to speak with your primary care physician first and double check that this is the right path for you.
Here are some of the potential treatment paths when it comes to IC.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or sacral neuromodulation can reduce pain in people suffering from IC. Doctors place electrodes on your skin and send electrical signals to your bladder to help alleviate pain and reduce your tendency to urinate frequently.
Your bladder is filled up with liquids when you are under anesthesia to expand it. This is used as a detection method for IC. However, distention can relieve pain for many patients too.
Delivering treatment drugs like heparin and steroids directly into the bladder using a catheter is known as bladder instillation. Keeping these drugs in the bladder for 15 minutes and then draining them can help reduce the inflammation.
Injecting Botox can also help reduce pain in patients. However, you will need to insert catheters in your body by yourself after getting this treatment.
One of the most common treatment methods of interstitial cystitis is taking medications like Pentosan polysulfate sodium, commercially known as Elmiron. This FDA-approved drug is commonly given to people with IC to treat their condition. However, other drugs used include antihistamine hydroxyzine, gabapentin, or azathioprine.
The last resort for when no other treatment is working is getting surgery. You can approach your general physician or healthcare professional to get expert advice on how to proceed with this.
Apart from this, you can also opt for acupuncture to relieve pain caused by interstitial cystitis. Many studies3 are being conducted to prove the efficiency of acupuncture as a treatment.
Patients are also advised to make various lifestyle changes too. You may want to make changes in your diet and eat healthier foods to prevent worsening your conditions. Additionally, you can also retrain your bladder to hold in your urine for longer periods.
Difference Between a UTI and Interstitial Cystitis
UTIs are an extremely common ailment that a large number of women suffer from. The symptoms of a UTI are extremely similar to the symptoms of bladder pain syndrome. So, people often confuse the two and can end up getting the wrong treatments.
You can tell the two apart by checking to see if you experience any pain during intercourse. People who have bladder pain syndrome experience painful sexual intercourse. However, when it comes to people who have UTIs, painful sex is not a common symptom.
You can treat a UTI with the help of antibiotics. However, taking a full course of antibiotics will not affect your bladder pain syndrome symptoms. IC or interstitial cystitis can be hard to detect in tests as well.
Differences in Bladder Pain for Men and Women
A study conducted around pelvic pain4 shows that both men and women share common symptoms for bladder pain syndrome. Pain in the pelvic region, groin area, frequent urge to urinate, and pelvic pressure are seen in both men and women.
However, data from the study also pointed to the fact that men are usually more susceptible to interstitial cystitis. Men experience pain in their groin and the region between the anus and their testicles, also known as the perineum.
On the other hand, women experience painful sexual intercourse and pain around their vaginal region and pelvis. There are no big differences between the two, and both men and women have similar experiences with the illness. Urinary incontinence is a major potential symptom that both men and women may have to deal with.
Top Products That Can Help You with Bladder Pain Syndrome Incontinence Symptoms
Besides the physical pain and other issues discussed above, bladder pain syndrome can also throw off your daily routine due to urinary incontinence as well. In order to address this, the following absorbent products are excellent choices for managing urinary incontinence:
1. Caroli Unisex Incontinence Pull-up Underwear, Heavy absorbency, Odor-locking (For Heavy Urine Incontinence)
This product is perfect for men and women who suffer from incontinence. It is a pull-up absorbent underwear that can hold up to 34 fluid ounces of liquid at once. You can take it off by ripping the tear away sides before discarding it.
The product is extremely soft and comfortable for use, and locks in any unpleasant odors. Additionally, it comes in different sizes to fit almost anyone.
2. Prevail Ultra-Thin Incontinence Pads for Women, 9.5", Light absorbency, Individually-wrapped, Secure fit (For Lighter Incontinence, For Women)
These ultra-thin pads are perfect for women who experience small amounts of incontinence from time to time. They are very comfortable to wear, and are exceptionally discreet. Moreover, they also have great absorption.
3. Prevail’s Incontinence Guard for Men with Max absorbency, Breathable, and Secure fit (For Lighter Incontinence, For Men)
These adhesive incontinence guards are perfect for men who wish to avoid any spillage through their clothes. It locks away any moisture and keeps you fresh. Additionally, these guards are very discreet, so no one around you will even notice you're wearing one.
To Sum Up
Bladder pain syndrome or interstitial cystitis can be handled best if you are aware of and keep track of your symptoms. If you let it progress and worsen, you may end up having to take more serious measures, such as getting surgery. Always stay in tune with your body, and don't wait for things to get too bad before you take steps to address these issues — and get back to living your life as freely as you did beforehand.
What can I drink to soothe an irritated bladder?
- A glass of purified water
- Fruit juices with a lower acidity (such as apple, pear, or cranberry)
- Soy milk (as opposed to cow's or goat's milk)
- Fruit teas (caffeine-free)
Which fruits are safe in terms of not irritating my bladder?
Bananas, blueberries, papaya, watermelon, and pears are all considered safe fruits for the bladder.
How long does it take for an irritated bladder to heal?
For the bladder to heal, it usually takes at least 10 days or more, depending on the specifics of your situation.
How can I make my bladder muscles stronger?
Tense your pelvic floor muscles for three seconds, hold the contraction, and then release for three seconds. Repeat the process a few times. Try doing Kegel exercises while sitting, standing, or walking after your muscles are stronger.
1. Rodgers, G. MD MACP. "Symptoms and Causes of Interstitial Cystitis". National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Online Publication.
2. Kim, J.; Freeman, M. (December 2011). "Antiproliferative Factor Signaling and Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome". International Urology Journal. Int Neurourol J. 2011 Dec; 15(4): 184–191. doi: 10.5213/inj.2011.15.4.184
3. Maxwell, D. "The Treatment Of Interstitial Cystitis By Acupuncture". The Journal of Chinese Medicine, Online Publication.
4. Clemens, J. MD; Clauw, D. MD, Kreder, K. MD (May 2016). "Comparison of Baseline Urologic Symptoms in Men and Women in the Multidisciplinary Approach to the Study of Chronic Pelvic Pain Research Cohort". Journal of Urology. J Urol. 2015 May; 193(5): 1554–1558. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2014.11.016
Disclaimer: The information presented here is purely for educational purposes and should not be used in place of the advice of your doctor or physician.