Urine is collected in the bladder, a muscular sac located in the pelvis. It is not very large; it is about the size and shape of a pear, at least when it’s not filled with urine.
Normally, the bladder can hold up to 2 cups of urine during the day, and twice that amount at night. When the bladder is full, you will feel the urge to urinate. If you drink eight glasses of water a day, you might expect to urinate as many as six times a day.
Painful bladder syndrome (PBS) occurs when the urge-to-urinate signals are interrupted or become crossed. When a person has BPS, the urges to urinate increase in number, but the bladder is unable to empty, often resulting in pain and the release of only small amounts of urine. The medical/scientific name for painful bladder syndrome is interstitial cystitis.
Definitely speak to a health professional if you suspect that you may have painful bladder syndrome.
The following symptoms are common to the condition. However, they may not all be present at the same time and their quality will vary from person to person.
- Chronic Pain. Ongoing, long-term pain associated with painful bladder syndrome may occur in the pelvis, and in the area between anus and scrotum (in men) and between the anus and vagina (in women).
- Unsuccessful, Frequent Urge to Urinate. People with painful bladder syndrome experience persistent, frequent urges to urine, but are able to only expel a small amount of urine. It’s not uncommon for a person with the condition to urinate as many as 60 times per day, feeling discomfort rather than relief following urination.
A person with painful bladder syndrome may find that symptoms flare up with stress, sexual activity, or exercise. Even long periods of inactivity can trigger PBS symptoms. Women may experience PBS symptoms during menstruation.
PBS symptoms are similar to those of a chronic urinary tract infection. Seeing a qualified urologist is imperative so the condition can be properly diagnosed and treated.
There is no cure for painful bladder syndrome, but there are treatments available to alleviate your symptoms.
Just as the symptoms of painful bladder syndrome don’t exhibit the same for everyone, neither does one treatment treat all patients with PBS. Your doctor may apply various treatments or combine them to find what works to relieve your symptoms.
First-line treatments may include oral medication, physical therapy to relieve pain, bladder distention (which uses water to stretch the bladder).
Surgery is also an option but is usually reserved for severe cases when pain can’t be eliminated, and other treatments fail. Three types of surgery address the condition:
- Bladder augmentation involves the surgeon increasing the bladder’s capacity by placing a patch from the intestine on the bladder. It won’t stop the pain associated with the syndrome and it may require the patient use a catheter to empty their bladders.
- Fulguration is when the surgeon burns away ulcers in the bladder, by inserting instruments through the urethra.
- Resection, like fulguration, is minimally invasive and is a similar process. The surgeon inserts instruments through the urethra, but to cut away ulcers rather than burn them away.
The first step to treating painful bladder syndrome is diagnosis. Speak with an urologist about your symptoms. He or she will assess your medical history and conduct tests to determine if your pain is related to painful bladder syndrome or another condition.
Dr. Kashif Alvi is a board-certified urologist who is well-versed in diagnosing and treating interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome). Dr. Alvi treats both men and women. If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms outlined in this article, please call Urologic Surgeons of Arizona to request an appointment at (480) 409-5060.