A painful bladder with interstitial cystitis is a special form of inflamed bladder. Unlike an acute inflammation of the bladder, which is normally caused by bacteria and disappears again after a few days with suitable treatment, interstitial cystitis develops slowly and then often remains for years or even decades.
It is often difficult to identify interstitial cystitis - its diagnosis largely depends on excluding other diseases. The symptoms can vary, meaning that lists of questions can only cover some of the people affected. According to the criteria defined by the European Society for the Study of Interstitial Cystitis (IC), bladder pain syndrome should be diagnosed on the basis of chronic pelvic pain, pressure or discomfort related to the urinary bladder accompanied by at least one other urinary symptom like persistent urge to void and frequency, and confusable diseases as other causes of the symptoms have been excluded. Women, at around 80%, are far more frequently affected by IC than men.
Correct diagnosis represents a first important step for people suffering from IC. Since the causes of IC are still unclear, there is a lack of suitable treatment plans for curing the disease. Consequently, all currently used treatments concentrate on alleviating the symptoms. This usually starts with treatment with medication, generally as a combination of several agents. Further treatment options include instillation therapy (instilling medicines into the urinary bladder), stimulation therapy of the bladder with the EMDA system and various methods of nerve stimulation.