Painful Bladder Syndrome (Interstitial Cystitis)

Rush takes a team approach to your interstitial cystitis care. Our physicians and therapists work together to diagnose and treat your bladder pain and pressure.

Rush takes a team approach to your interstitial cystitis care. Our physicians and therapists work together to diagnose and treat your bladder pain and pressure.

Interstitial cystitis (IC), or pelvic floor dysfunction, is a chronic condition that causes pain and pressure in the bladder or pelvic area. Often called painful bladder syndrome (PBS), it can come on suddenly or build over years. While women are most commonly affected, men and children can experience it.

Signs You Should Get Help for Interstitial Cystitis

Symptoms can range from the common to the more unusual. Some of the symptoms you may experience include the following:

  • Discomfort and pain in your lower abdominal area
  • Pressure and tenderness in your bladder and pelvic area
  • Urgent need to urinate or frequent urination (often small amounts)
  • Pain intensity that changes as your bladder fills or empties
  • Pain during sex
  • For women, symptoms could become worse during your period

IC symptoms can come and go. If any of these symptoms disrupt or affect your quality of life, contact a Rush OB-GYN (women) or urologist (men) for a diagnosis.

Diagnosing Interstitial Cystitis

After learning about your medical history and performing a physical exam, your provider may need to perform certain tests to confirm your diagnosis or evaluate for other conditions. This testing could include the following:

  • Urinalysis
  • Urine culture
  • Cystoscopy
  • Bladder and urethra biopsy
  • Potassium sensitivity test
  • Bladder distention (under anesthesia)
  • Urodynamic bladder study

Your provider may ask you to complete a bladder diary to further understand your condition. Your diary will track how much you drink and how often you urinate.

After diagnosis, Rush urogynecologists, urologists or OB-GYNs treat your symptoms and find you relief. Often a combination of treatments based on your symptoms is best for relieving your discomfort.

  • Specialized diet: Removing certain foods, including alcohol, tomatoes, chocolate and caffeinated drinks, from your diet
  • Bladder training: Emptying your bladder on a schedule and using relaxation techniques
  • Medication: Medicine to treat the symptoms that affect you most
  • Pelvic floor physical therapy: Exercises guided by a pelvic floor physical therapist
  • Bladder distention / instillation: Stretching and filling the bladder with a solution to increase capacity and relax pelvic and bladder muscles
  • Sacral nerve stimulation: Electrical pulses, from a device either worn or surgically implanted, alter nerve signals to your bladder and surrounding muscles

Rush Excellence in Interstitial Cystitis Care

  • Nationally ranked for gynecologic care: Ranked No. 13 in the nation by U.S. News &World Report, the gynecology program at Rush University Medical Center starts by getting to know you. Based on your lifestyle and health conditions, we create an individualized care plan to address your unique needs.
  • The most up-to-date treatments: Rush providers are both researchers and clinicians, giving you confidence that they are up to date on the latest research, treatments and diagnostic tools to care for you.
  • Specialized, comprehensive care: IC often goes hand in hand with fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. If you are experiencing these conditions, your provider will partner with a rheumatologist and gastroenterologist to provide you with comprehensive care for all of your symptoms.
  • Program dedicated to pelvic health: The Program for Abdominal and Pelvic Health at Rush University Medical Center specializes in helping patients who are experiencing multiple pelvic and abdominal health conditions, including IC. You'll receive holistic care led by a team of multidisciplinary experts, including urogynecologists, gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons and physical therapists. Our providers will determine how your different conditions relate to each other, and recommend the right treatment to find you relief.