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Interstitial Cystitis / Painful Bladder Syndrome

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How is IC / PBS diagnosed?

Because symptoms are similar to those of other disorders of the urinary bladder and because there is no definitive test to identify IC / PBS, doctors must rule out other treatable conditions before considering a diagnosis of IC / PBS. The most common of these diseases in both genders are urinary tract infections and bladder cancer. IC / PBS is not associated with any increased risk in developing cancer. In men, common diseases include chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome.

The diagnosis of IC / PBS in the general population is based on

  • presence of pain related to the bladder, usually accompanied by frequency and urgency
  • absence of other diseases that could cause the symptoms

Diagnostic tests that help in ruling out other diseases include urinalysis, urine culture, cystoscopy, biopsy of the bladder wall, distention of the bladder under anesthesia, urine cytology, and laboratory examination of prostate secretions.

Urinalysis and Urine Culture

Examining urine under a microscope and culturing the urine can detect and identify the primary organisms that are known to infect the urinary tract and that may cause symptoms similar to IC / PBS. A urine sample is obtained either by catheterization or by the "clean catch" method. For a clean catch, the patient washes the genital area before collecting urine "midstream" in a sterile container. White and red blood cells and bacteria in the urine may indicate an infection of the urinary tract, which can be treated with an antibiotic. If urine is sterile for weeks or months while symptoms persist, the doctor may consider a diagnosis of IC / PBS.

Culture of Prostate Secretions

Although not commonly done, in men, the doctor might obtain prostatic fluid and examine it for signs of a prostate infection, which can then be treated with antibiotics.

Cystoscopy Under Anesthesia With Bladder Distention

The doctor may perform a cystoscopic examination in order to rule out bladder cancer. During cystoscopy, the doctor uses a cystoscope-an instrument made of a hollow tube about the diameter of a drinking straw with several lenses and a light-to see inside the bladder and urethra. The doctor might also distend or stretch the bladder to its capacity by filling it with a liquid or gas. Because bladder distention is painful in patients with IC / PBS, they must be given some form of anesthesia for the procedure.

The doctor may also test the patient's maximum bladder capacity-the maximum amount of liquid or gas the bladder can hold. This procedure must be done under anesthesia since the bladder capacity is limited by either pain or a severe urge to urinate.

Biopsy

A biopsy is a tissue sample that can be examined under a microscope. Samples of the bladder and urethra may be removed during a cystoscopy. A biopsy helps rule out bladder cancer.

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WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

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