The bladder in charge of storing urine and releasing it at the appropriate time is not an organ you want to have any malfunctions. Bladder pain can be quite distracting as someone will often feel the need to ease themselves all the time even when they do not want to. There are a number of underlying illnesses that can cause a painful bladder, but the painful bladder syndrome in itself is known as the interstitial cystitis.
After tests have been conducted to ensure that the person suffers from no other disease that can cause the same symptoms plus a change in the walls lining the bladder, the patient will then be diagnosed as having the painful bladder syndrome. A condition more likely to affect women than men causes the bladder walls to stiffen, hindering its flexibility and consequently the ability to expand as it fills with urine.
Other medical causes of a painful bladder:
- Urinary tract infection, an infection likely to affect any of the organs involved in the urination process such as the bladder, urethra, and ureter.
- Bladder cancer is also going to cause pain in the bladder and surrounding areas. It is however not very common and the most identifying symptom to accompany the pain is evidence of blood in the urine.
- Vaginitis and prostatitis which entails a bacterial infection to the vagina or prostrate. The pain may feel like it is originating from the bladder.
- Bladder stones formed when substances in the urine crystallize once they reach the bladder and can not be passed as urine. Once they are large enough to cause damage to the bladder walls, then the pain will come. The stones first form in the kidneys but grow bigger on arrival to the bladder.
- Urinary tract obstruction, anything that blocks proper passage is likely to cause pain eventually.
Symptoms of interstitial cystitis (IC)
Apart from the pain, the most identifying factor is the constant need to urinate and passing little or no urine each time. Patients may urinate up to 60 times per day and find it difficult to sleep in the night because of this. The walls of the bladder are also shown to show some changes that are specifically linked to IC.
The pain is said to increase as the disease develops and is mostly felt when one needs to urinate and during the urination. The nerves in the bladder, abdomen, legs, hips and pelvis become more sensitive to pain and the painful area grows with the development of the disease.
Symptoms have been seen to get worse in some patients with the consumption of certain foods such as coffee, beer, oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, chocolates and anything with artificial sweeteners. Stress after exercise, sitting for long hours, and intercourse are also known to aggravate the symptoms. Smoking is certain to make the IC worse and it is the major cause of bladder cancer as well.
Treatment of the painful bladder syndrome
- Gentle stretching exercises are known to ease pain for some patients. Given other benefits of exercise, it does not hurt to try and see if the stretching helps.
- Bladder distention, a technique used to diagnose the disease is also said to ease the pain of the sufferer. It is not clear why it helps but scientists believe that the procedure increases the bladder’s capacity while at the same time obstructing the pain transmitting nerves.
- For oral medication a patient can take Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium (Elmiron), a drug meant to take care of the IC problem that was FDA approved in 1996. The symptoms should reduce after 6 months and after that it is okay to declare that the medication does not work for you if nothing has changed. The medication works well with other medications, but one may have gastrointestinal problems and some may suffer hair loss. It also has a negative effect on the liver and so should only be taken under doctor’s supervision. Pregnant women should stay away from the drug.
- Electrical nerve stimulation through transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) which scientists believe increases blood flow to the bladder allowing it more control and repairing it by releasing pain blocking substances.
- A well balanced diet is an essential, ensuring that you do not load up on food items that are known to make your situation worse. And for those who smoke, this is the time to think about quitting seriously.
- Bladder training, where patients learn to only urinate at specific time and try to distract themselves so as not to do it frequently. If one persists, they will be able to see an improvement in their bladder control eventually.
- Bladder instillation where the bladder is washed using solution for varying intervals. It can be done at home, but a blood test should be done every six months to ensure the patient has not caught some infection.
- Surgery, which should be the patient’s last option if all else fails to make the symptoms better. Augmentation makes the bladder larger, and in the worst case of the disease ‘cystectomy’ which is the removal of the bladder.
Because the case of bladder pain is yet to be found, a fully effective treatment still eludes doctors. Some researchers believe that the pain is a manifestation of something else that affects organs in this area as people with the PBS tend to have fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. There has also been some talk of it being hereditary but no clear connection has been seen in any of the patients. As always, do not diagnose yourself but make sure to see a physician and have your list of symptoms written down to make it easier for them to figure out what is wrong with you.