Painful Bladder Syndrome
Dr. Robert J. Evans, a nationally recognized expert in painful bladder syndrome, answers common questions about the condition.
What is painful bladder syndrome? Painful bladder syndrome, or interstitial cystitis (IC), is a condition in which the bladder lining is tender and easily irritated. Symptoms can include severe pelvic pain, urinary urgency and frequency and painful sexual intercourse. It is often misdiagnosed as other conditions such as endometriosis, kidney stones or chronic urinary tract infections.
How common is the condition? About 90 percent of IC patients are women. There are an estimated 8 million women over age 18 with IC. Because the symptoms can be similar to other conditions, it takes the average patient eight years and seeing five doctors to be correctly diagnosed.
Does diet affect symptoms? Some patients find that alcohol, tomatoes, spices, chocolate, caffeinated and citrus beverages, artificial sweeteners, and high-acid foods contribute to bladder irritation. By eliminating various items from the diet and introducing them one at a time, patients can determine if foods or beverages affect their symptoms. Learn what foods may trigger bladder pain.
How is the condition treated? Treating IC is a long-term management situation, similar to managing blood pressure. It’s important to know that with the right treatment, patients with IC/painful bladder syndrome can get better. Treatments can include physical therapy, bladder instillation, diet and behavioral changes, and Interstim®, a “pacemaker” for the bladder. Currently, there is only one approved oral drug (Elmiron) for IC. However, clinical studies have shown promise for a monoclonal antibody for managing the painful condition.
Dr. Evans, an associate professor of urology at Wake Forest Baptist, is on the Medical Advisory Board of the IC Association.