Chronic cystitis (also referred to as interstitial cystitis) originates in the bladder. It causes a painful pressure or burning in the pelvic region, and a frequent need to urinate. The condition affects women more often than men.

If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, the pain of chronic cystitis is comparable. However, a UTI will go away with time and treatment. Chronic cystitis is difficult to diagnose and treat.

Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder. Chronic cystitis is a long-lasting inflammation of the bladder.

The cause of cystitis is typically a urinary tract infection (UTI) — when bacteria enter the bladder or urethra and multiply. A UTI can become a serious problem if the bacteria spread to your kidneys.

A kidney infection can lead to sepsis, an extreme and potentially deadly reaction to an infection.

Symptoms of chronic or interstitial cystitis may come and go. The intensity varies depending on the severity of your flare-ups.

Symptoms of chronic cystitis include:

The exact cause of chronic cystitis is unknown. However, people with cystitis sometimes find that certain things trigger a flare-up of symptoms. Some causes of flare-ups include:

  • sexual intercourse
  • stress
  • dehydration
  • holding urine for too long
  • wearing form-fitting pants
  • having a menstrual cycle

Since there’s no known cure for chronic cystitis, treatment plans work to relieve symptoms and improve the daily life of a person with cystitis.

Lifestyle changes, medication, or physical therapy are among the recommended treatment options.

Doctors also suggest keeping track of when your symptoms flare up. For example, if you drink coffee and your pain increases, your doctor may recommend avoiding caffeine.

Lifestyle changes may include:

  • diet changes
  • preventing dehydration
  • reducing stress
  • increasing physical activity

Some doctors also recommend bladder training. Chronic cystitis can increase your urge to go to the bathroom. This often results in you going to the restroom when your bladder is not full.

Bladder training includes:

  • keeping a diary of your patterns
  • trying to ignore your first urge to go to the restroom
  • waiting until your bladder is full or becomes painful before urination

These measures will train your brain to wait more time before urging you to urinate.

To diagnose chronic cystitis, your doctor will work to systematically rule out a list of diseases or conditions that may be affecting you, including bladder cancer and UTI.

Urine culture

A urine culture will typically be done to rule out a UTI. During a urine culture, you’ll be asked to urinate in a cup. Your urine is then tested to rule out an infection. An infection can be treated with antibiotics.

Cystoscopy

A cystoscopy may be performed in order to look at the inside of your bladder. A cystoscope (a thin tube with a camera and light) is inserted into your bladder through your urethra (the tube that brings urine out of your bladder).

Make an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing the symptoms of a urinary tract infection or believe that you have chronic cystitis.

If you often experience pain or discomfort in your bladder, you may have chronic cystitis. While there’s no cure, your doctor will work with you to help manage your symptoms.

Be sure to keep track of when your symptoms flare up in order to identify irritants or triggers that you may be able to avoid.