Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome

Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) is a complex condition that can be difficult to diagnose because it has a wide range of symptoms and can be confused with other conditions of the pelvis. Nearly 12 million Americans—both women and men – are living with IC/BPS. 

Hackensack Meridian Health offers urologists who specialize in interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome. We have the expertise to diagnose the cause and recommend the best treatment that will give you relief. 

What are the Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome?

Often mistaken for overactive bladder or urinary tract infection, the symptoms of IC/BPS can range from mildly uncomfortable to severely debilitating and include:
  • Ongoing pelvic pain
  • Pain, pressure or discomfort as the bladder fills and then decreases when you empty your bladder
  • Frequent and urgent need to urinate
  • Frequent urination in small amounts throughout the day and night (as much as 40-60 times per day in severe cases)
  • Feeling the need to urinate even when you’re finished 
  • Blood in the urine – appears red, pink or light brown
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
If you have ongoing bladder pain or discomfort that includes one or more of these symptoms, you should see a Hackensack Meridian Health urologist. We understand interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome and can recommend the next steps for diagnosing and treating your condition.   

Diagnosing Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome

Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms overlap with other conditions. Symptoms also can vary or disappear for a period of time.

The urology experts at Hackensack Meridian Health have the expertise to identify structural abnormalities and rule out conditions such as UTI, overactive bladder, bladder cancer, kidney stones and other bladder conditions. Testing for IC/BPS usually includes analysis of your urine and possible imaging of your bladder and pelvic area. 

A sample of your urine is checked for infection, traces of blood and other signs that can help diagnose the cause of your interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome.

After you urinate into a container, your doctor will measure the urine left in your bladder using an ultrasound. A large amount of urine left in your bladder may mean a blockage in your urinary tract or a problem with bladder nerves or muscles.

You have access to the area’s most advanced testing for interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome at Hackensack Meridian Health. We are the only provider in the area offering video urodynamic testing. Video urodynamic testing allows us to learn more about your urine flow and the strength of the pelvic muscles that surround the urethra, vagina and rectum. 

Your doctor may order an ultrasound to examine the structure of your bladder and rule out any structural abnormalities in your abdomen or pelvic area that could cause symptoms.

Cystoscopy may be recommended by your pelvic medicine specialist to gauge the health of your bladder and determine what may be contributing to your interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome. 

How Cystoscopy Works

  • A flexible, lighted tube is moved through the urethra and into the bladder.
  • Special tools are used by the urologist to view the area. 
  • If your urologist sees a problem, she may be able to treat it during the test. 
  • The outpatient procedure usually is done in the office and is not painful.
 

Treatments for Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome

If you are diagnosed with interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome, our urologists will recommend a treatment plan and collaborate with you to determine what best meets your needs. Our approach for IC/BPS is patient centered, starting with the least invasive approach possible to relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life. 

Making changes to your diet, such as eliminating coffee, tea, or acidic foods and drinks, has been shown to relieve symptoms of IC/BPS in some patients. 

Some patients with IC/BPS have high tone pelvic floor dysfunction, meaning you have very tight and painful muscles of the pelvic floor. You may be treated by a specialized physical therapist to alleviate the muscle tightness causing your pain. 

A number of oral medications can be effective for treating IC/BPS by relieving pain, relaxing your bladder muscle and protecting your bladder from irritation.

A medicated solution that relieves bladder irritation can be applied directly to your bladder through a catheter. The medication then sits in the bladder for a short period of time. This is done in the office on a weekly basis for six weeks.

If lesions or ulcers are discovered as the cause of your bladder pain and discomfort, your urologist may perform fulguration. Your urologist inserts a cystoscope into the bladder and then uses a laser or electrocautery to destroy the diseased tissue. This is done under sedation in the operating room.

If lesions or ulcers are discovered as the cause of your bladder pain and discomfort, your urologist may inject a steroid into the ulcer through a cystoscope. This is done under sedation in the operating room. 

Injections of Botox® also can be used to help your bladder relax and allow it to fill with more urine before you have the urge to go. For people with severe bladder pain, this procedure may be done in the operating room under sedation.

 

For interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome that does not respond to treatment, robotic or minimally invasive surgery may be performed to offer relief. Surgery may include removal of the bladder with reconstruction of the urinary tract. This is considered the last resort for treating  severe IC/BPS.

You have access to New Jersey’s largest and most successful program for robotic urology surgery at Hackensack Meridian Health. We are the only one to offer a single-port approach, which means the surgical instruments and a camera are inserted through a single incision. 

Learn more about the benefits of Robotic Urology Surgery

 

Sacral neuromodulation (SNM) can be effective for treating interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome for some patients.  A type of “bladder pacemaker,” SNM stimulates the sacral nerve which controls the muscles and other nerves responsible for your bladder.

  • During a procedure under conscious sedation, a small device is implanted under the skin near your buttocks. It is connected to wires placed near the sacral nerve, just above the tailbone. 
  • Once implanted, the SNM device sends painless electrical pulses to the sacral nerve.
 
Our Doctors

We understand that women have unique needs when it comes to urology care. Hackensack Meridian Health offers expert urologists who specialize in urogynecology and female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.

Why Choose Hackensack Meridian Health for Urology Care

Quality

Hackensack University Medical Center has been ranked the #1 Urology Department in New Jersey for nine years in a row by U.S. News & World Report and is the only urology department in New Jersey that is nationally ranked.

Innovation

We offer urologists who specialize in women’s conditions. We are experienced in diagnosing and treating women with IC who have not found successful treatment anywhere else.

Patient Experience

We specialize in a range of urologic disciplines including urologic oncology, infertility, stone disease, sexual dysfunction, female urology and pediatric urology.

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Incontinence in Women: How to Find Relief

Urinary incontinence is common, and there are many effective treatments to help relieve this condition.

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