Interstitial cystitis: your guide to painful bladder syndrome

Written by: Mr Mohammed Belal
Edited by: Cal Murphy

Bladder pain can strike for a number of reasons. One condition that may hit people in their 30s or 40s is interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome. Affecting women more commonly than men, this chronic condition is poorly understood. We talked to expert urologist Mr Mohammed Belal, who gave us a quick guide to interstitial cystitis.

What is interstitial cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is an uncommon bladder condition consisting of bladder pain as well as frequent urination and urgency (desperate desire to void). It is also known as bladder pain syndrome (BPS) and painful bladder syndrome.

The exact causes are somewhat poorly understood, as there is no obvious infection in the bladder and antibiotics are ineffective in treating it. The bladder may be ulcerated, inflamed, or scarred.


What signs and symptoms would you expect to see with interstitial cystitis?

The most common symptom of interstitial cystitis is that of bladder pain, which usually occurs in the suprapubic region and improves on passing urine. The patient would need to urinate often during the day and night.

In diagnosing interstitial cystitis, common conditions such as a urine infection should first be excluded.


How to manage interstitial cystitis

Interstitial cystitis can be managed in a number of ways. Initially, more conservative measures are recommended, including a change in diet and fluid intake. This could mean reducing carbonated drinks and spicy food.

Further management includes pain relief and medication to reduce the frequency of voiding. Bladder instillations (traditionally of GAG layer products) are commonly used to relieve the symptoms.


Can interstitial cystitis be cured?

As in any chronic condition, interstitial cystitis can be managed to a level where the patient can continue to function normally. There may be flare-ups, but generally these are manageable with treatment. However, the condition itself does not disappear, as there is currently no cure.

If you are exhibiting signs of painful bladder syndrome, consult your doctor or a specialist.

By Mr Mohammed Belal

Mr Mohammed Belal is a top Birmingham urologist currently based at BMI The Priory Hospital and Spire Parkway Hospital, among others. He specialises in both male and female urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, male infertility, and kidney stones, and is well-versed in both andrology and female urology. Known for his compassionate patient care, Mr Belal endeavours to find a solution to complex urological problems, including those where previous treatment has been unsuccessful.

Mr Mohammed Belal is a highly trained and skilled urological surgeon, and, as an active researcher and trainer, he is able to approach urological problems with the most up-to-date expertise and the most advanced techniques. A Cambridge graduate, he undertook further surgical training at a number of renowned medical institutions, such as Guy's Hospital, London and the Bristol Urological Institute, and also received a prestigious fellowship in Melbourne, Australia.

Mr Belal is one of only a handful of surgeons who perform autologous pubovaginal slings, sacral neuromodulation, mesh removal, complex bladder surgery and is one of the UK's largest volume implanters of artificial urinary sphincters. Mr Belal is regularly is invited to present and operate nationally and internationally for his surgical expertise.

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