Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome)

Chronic bladder pain from interstitial cystitis can take a big toll on your body and spirit. At Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), our specialists take pelvic pain seriously. We offer a broad range of leading treatments to help you find lasting relief so you can feel better and live a full life.

Interstitial cystitis, also called painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic condition marked by inflammation in the bladder. While men can develop this condition, it more commonly affects women.

Our team consists of several specialists who are fellowship trained in urology  – including one of the few female urologists in the country. We offer the expertise you need to manage this complex health issue. From pelvic exercises to innovative surgeries, we’ll walk you through what steps you can take to best manage your symptoms.

Interstitial cystitis symptoms

People experience interstitial cystitis symptoms differently. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain, pressure or tenderness near your bladder or pelvic area
  • Pain during sex
  • Frequent urination
  • Worsening symptoms due to stress or your menstrual cycle

Interstitial cystitis diagnosis

At LVHN, you will be cared for by providers who specialize in treating patients with symptoms similar to yours. This “centers of excellence” approach helps us schedule tests and treatments sooner while still offering the highest quality of your care.

There is no definitive test to diagnose this condition. Your provider may recommend multiple tests to learn more about what’s causing your symptoms before coming to a precise diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • Urine testing: Urinalysis and urine cultures analyze the makeup of urine to detect a possible infection or other causes for concern.
  • Urodynamics testing: These sophisticated tests measure how well your bladder works.
  • Cystoscopy: In this procedure, a doctor inserts a flexible tube with a camera through your urethra so doctors can examine the bladder for abnormalities

Interstitial cystitis treatments

While there is no cure for interstitial cystitis, our specialists will work with you to find the treatments that best relieve your symptoms.

We take a multidisciplinary approach to pelvic pain and offer a broad range of interstitial cystitis treatments. Depending on your specific situation, you may find one or more treatments help manage your symptoms:

  • Diet changes: Some patients have found relief from avoiding certain foods, such as alcohol, tomatoes, spices or citrus beverages.
  • Bladder training: Changes to your bathroom routine and relaxation techniques can reduce the times you need to go to the bathroom.
  • Medication: A range of over-the-counter and prescription medications may help relax the bladder and relieve pain. Your doctor will help you decide which medications are right for you.
  • Surgery: Our surgeons use sophisticated robotic technology to offer you the most innovative treatments, with less risk and a shorter recovery. For example, surgically implanted electrical stimulation devices may provide meaningful pain relief by emitting mild electric pulses.