What is bladder pain syndrome?

13th August 2016

Bladder pain syndrome is a condition that causes people to have bladder pain and urinate often. Bladder pain syndrome is often called “BPS” for short. It is also sometimes called “painful bladder syndrome” or “interstitial cystitis.”

BPS can happen in both men and women, but it is more common in women. We do not know what causes BPS, but some research suggest it might be caused by abnormal changes in the lining of the bladder. Sometimes, BPS happens on its own. Other times, it starts after a person has:

An infection of the urinary tract, vagina, or prostate

Surgery on the bladder, pelvis, or back

An injury to the pelvic area or buttocks

What are the symptoms of BPS? — All people with BPS have bladder pain that gets better after urinating. Other common symptoms include:

Feeling the need to urinate often, during the day and night (even if you don’t actually urinate)

Urinating often, during the day and night

Pain in the lower belly or around the area where urine leaves the body

Symptoms of BPS are different from person to person and can be mild or severe. People might not have symptoms every day. But they can have “flares,” which are times when their symptoms get worse. Some people find that their symptoms get worse at certain times, such as:

After they have certain foods or drinks

During certain times of their monthly cycle (in women)

After having sex or sitting for a long time

During times of stress

Is there a test for BPS? — There isn’t one specific test. A thorough history, together with a urine analysis and possible cystoscopy is useful in the diagnosis.

During cystoscopy, we put a thin tube with a camera on the end into the opening in the body where urine comes out (called the urethra). Then we advance the tube until it reaches the bladder. That way we can look at the inside of the bladder to see if it is abnormal.

How is BPS treated? — There are different treatments for BPS. Most people need more than one treatment. Different treatments can include:

Bladder training – You can train your bladder to urinate less often by holding your urine for longer periods of time. For example, if you feel the need to urinate every 30 minutes, try to wait and urinate every 45 minutes.

Physical therapy – Many people with BPS have tight and painful muscles in the lower belly, groin, and buttocks. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help relax these muscles.

Medicines – Doctors can use different medicines to treat BPS. Some medicines help heal the bladder lining, and others can reduce pain. Some medicines come as pills. Others come as liquids and go into the bladder through a tube that is put up the urethra.

Surgery – A person might have surgery if he or she still has symptoms after trying all other treatments. During surgery, a doctor puts a small device in the lower back that connects to the nerve that goes to the bladder. The device sends electrical signals to the nerve that can stop it from feeling pain.

Can BPS flares be prevented? — To help prevent flares, you can:

Avoid the foods and drinks that make your symptoms worse.

Avoid activities that make your symptoms worse.

Get treated quickly for bladder infections, which can make BPS symptoms worse.