What causes bladder pain?

Bladder pain

By Amanda Barrell   

Reviewed by Vincent J.
Tavella, MPH
Interstitial cystitis UTI
Bladder cancer Kidney stones Outlook
Bladder problems can cause
pain in the middle of the lower abdomen, including while urinating. There are several
different causes of bladder pain, including infections and inflammatory
The bladder sits in the center
of the pelvis. If a person feels pain in the lower right or left abdomen, it is
less likely to relate to the bladder and may signal kidney stones instead.
In this article, we look at
the possible causes and treatment of bladder pain.
Interstitial cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is also
called bladder pain syndrome (BPS). Doctors most commonly diagnose interstitial
cystitis in people over the age of 40 years. The condition is more common in
females than males.
Typical symptoms of
interstitial cystitis include:

  • bladder pain that may
    accompany a sensation of pressure
  • pelvic pain
  • pain while urinating
  • difficulty urinating
  • urinating more frequently
  • having an urgent need to
When interstitial cystitis
first occurs, a person tends to experience just one of these symptoms. As it
progresses, they may develop more symptoms.
It is typically a long-term
condition, meaning that there is no cure. People may experience flare-ups,
during which their symptoms get worse for several hours, days, or weeks at a
Doctors do not know what
causes interstitial cystitis. Each person can have different triggers, or
factors that cause flare-ups. However, some common triggers include:

  • doing pelvic floor exercises
  • wearing tight clothing
  • being constipated
  • having sex
  • drinking coffee
  • drinking citrus beverages
It is usually possible to
manage the symptoms, and different methods work for different people.
For example, some people
benefit from restricting the amount of fluid that they drink, while others feel
better when they stay more hydrated.
A healthcare professional may
recommend an over-the-counter medicine to help an individual cope with
Urinary tract infection

A urinary tract infection
(UTI) is an infection of the urinary tract, which includes the urethra,
bladder, and kidneys. Most UTIs affect the bladder, and they are more common in
females than males.
The symptoms of a UTI include:

  • a burning pain while urinating
  • a frequent or urgent urge to
    urinate despite having little urine to pass
Bacteria are responsible for
UTIs, so doctors will usually prescribe antibiotics to treat them. A doctor
will provide advice on suitable types of antibiotic and the required length of
People can also explore ways
to treat a UTI without antibiotics.
The National Institute of
Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases advise people to drink plenty of
water to speed the healing process. A heating pad on the back or abdomen may
help ease the pain arising from a bladder infection.
Most cases of bladder pain are
not due to bladder cancer, but the condition is worth bearing in mind as a
potential cause.
The first sign of bladder
cancer is usually blood in the urine. There is rarely any pain to accompany
this. In its early stages, the disease can also lead to changes in a person’s
toilet habits, which may include the following:

  • feeling pain or burning while
  • needing to urinate more often
  • having an urgent need to
    urinate even when the bladder is not full
  • having trouble urinating
  • producing a weak urine stream
People with more advanced
bladder cancer may also notice the following symptoms:

  • being unable to urinate
  • having lower back pain in one
  • losing their appetite
  • losing weight unintentionally
  • feeling tired or weak
  • having swollen feet
  • experiencing bone pain
These symptoms are similar to
those that other conditions of the urinary tract cause. Anyone who experiences
them should seek medical attention.
The treatment options for
bladder cancer will depend primarily on how advanced it is, but doctors will
also need to consider other factors, such as the person’s age and fitness
Possible treatments include
surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. In some cases, a
doctor will recommend a combination of these treatments.
Many people with kidney stones
do not experience any symptoms, but the stones can sometimes lead to bladder
Kidney stones consist of the
undissolved minerals and salts that occur in urine. They start small but can
grow bigger. When they stay inside the kidney, they do not tend to cause any
In some cases, they will
travel to the bladder through the urethra and leave the body in the urine.
Again, this does not usually cause problems.
Sometimes, these stones can
become stuck in the urethra, which is the tube that connects the kidney to the
bladder. When this occurs, it blocks the flow of urine and can be very painful.
The main symptom is a pain in
the back and on the left or right side that can move to the lower tummy or
groin. It tends to start suddenly and come in waves. People often describe the
pain as sharp and cramping.
Other common symptoms of
kidney stones include:

  • pain while urinating
  • urinating more often
  • dark or red urine
  • nausea and vomiting
Males with kidney stones may
also feel pain at the tip of the penis.
Treatment will depend on the
type of stone, the severity of the blockage, and the specific symptoms.
If the stones are small, a
doctor will usually advise the individual to wait for them to pass. It is
generally safe to wait between 4 and 6 weeks for a kidney stone to pass by
itself if there is no infection and no sign of complete blockage.
Some medicines can help kidney
stones pass in the urine by relaxing the urethra. Tamsulosin is the drug that
doctors prescribe most often for this purpose.
A doctor may recommend surgery
if the stone does not pass, causes unbearable pain, or affects the function of
the kidneys.
The type of surgery will
depend on several factors. Surgical methods tend to involve either a small cut
or no cut at all, which leads to minimal pain and a relatively quick recovery
Interstitial cystitis, UTIs,
and bladder cancer can cause pain in the bladder, or the center of the lower
abdomen. Kidney stones can also cause pain in the lower left, right, or central
The outlook for someone with
bladder pain will very much depend on the cause of the problem.
Interstitial cystitis is a
chronic, long-term condition, meaning that there is no cure. With the right
support and lifestyle changes, however, people can usually manage their
symptoms well.
A doctor will usually
recommend antibiotics to treat UTIs. Drinking enough water, wearing
loose-fitting clothing, and always urinating at the first urge can all help
prevent UTIs from returning.
The outlook for a person with
bladder cancer will depend on the type of cancer as well as how advanced it is.
In general, the earlier the diagnosis occurs, the better. For this reason, it
is vital that a person seeks medical advice if they are experiencing symptoms.
People who have had kidney
stones can sometimes prevent them from returning by drinking plenty of water
and reducing the amount of salt in their diet. Eating more fruits and
vegetables and less meat will also help.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.