The bladder is the hollow organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine. As the bladder fills, muscles in its walls relax so that it can expand. As the bladder empties during urination, the muscles contract to squeeze the urine out through the urethra.

What is bladder pain?

Bladder pain can result from inflammation, infection, damage or injury to the bladder. The symptoms may be constant or variable and may improve or worsen with movement. The pain may be described as sharp, dull, stabbing, burning or throbbing and can range in intensity from mild to severe

Causes of bladder pain

There are many potential causes of bladder pain. Urinary tract infection and interstitial cystitis are among the most common.

  • Urinary tract infection is a cause of bladder pain that is typically accompanied by pain with urination, increased urinary frequency, or urgency (pressing need to urinate).
  • Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition in which the bladder becomes inflamed and irritated. The inflammation stiffens the bladder wall, and makes it difficult for the bladder to fully expand when filling with urine. It may be caused by a defect in the bladder lining. Women are much more likely than men to have the condition.

A main symptom is pain, which is strongest when the bladder fills and eases when the bladder empties. Pain may also be felt more generally in the lower back, abdomen, or groin. People with this condition may also urinate more frequently or feel an urgent need to urinate, yet they may only pass a little bit of urine each time. Sexual problems may also be related to interstitial cystitis.

Often, the diagnosis of interstitial cystitis is made by ruling out other conditions that cause similar symptoms, such as urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, kidney stones, and cancer

The following tests may be done:

  • Urine sample
  • Cystoscopy. After your bladder is filled with a liquid, the doctor will insert a long, thin scope (cystoscope) up your urethra to view the inside of your bladder.
  • An ultrasound or CT scan of the pelvis may be done to rule out other conditions.

Treating interstitial cystitis

There is no single or simple treatment for interstitial cystitis and you may need to try a variety of approaches in order to find relief. Options may include painkillers, anti-inflammatory or anti-spasmodic drugs, antihistamines or antidepressants.