Bladder Pain

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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What is bladder pain?

Bladder pain can result from inflammation, infection, damage or injury to the bladder. The symptoms may be constant or variable and may improve or worsen with movement. The pain may be described as sharp, dull, stabbing, burning or throbbing, and can range in intensity from mild to severe.

There are many potential causes of bladder pain. Urinary tract infection and interstitial cystitis are among the most common. Interstitial cystitis is a poorly understood bladder abnormality that is related to the central nervous system’s ability to regulate the bladder. It causes bladder pain that may also be accompanied by pain in the genitals, pelvis and anal region. Urinary tract infection is a cause of bladder pain that is typically accompanied by pain with urination, increased urinary frequency, or urgency (pressing need to urinate).

In other cases, bladder pain may come from a chronic underlying disease, such as cancer, endometriosis, and bowel disorders. Malignant tumors can cause bladder pain, as well as pain with urination, abdominal pain, and bloody urine. Most early cases of bladder cancer are painless. Bladder scarring or damage to adjoining structures, such as the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the bladder, may also contribute to bladder pain. If the urethra is constricted (due to scarring or a urethral stricture), urine may remain in the bladder, leading to pain and infection.

The duration and course of bladder pain vary widely depending on the cause. Bladder pain may be present constantly, sporadically, or only when the bladder is full.

Bladder pain may be associated with a serious condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience the following symptoms: high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), the inability to urinate, or severe abdominal pain.

If you have difficulty urinating, notice blood in your urine, or if your bladder pain is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.

What other symptoms might occur with bladder pain?

Bladder pain may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Urinary symptoms that may occur with bladder pain

Bladder pain may accompany other symptoms related to the urinary tract including:

  • Blood or pink-colored urine (hematuria)
  • Cloudy urine
  • Difficulty urinating (dysuria) and urinary retention
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Frequent urination that often produces only a small amount of urine
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Urgent need to urinate

Other symptoms that may occur along with bladder pain

Bladder pain may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, bladder pain may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms:

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Inability to urinate
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Severe abdominal pain

What causes bladder pain?

Bladder pain may be the result of multiple factors, including infection, disease or injury to the bladder. Symptoms may arise if you experience problems with normal bladder function, such as difficulty urinating, increased frequency of urination, or painful urination.

Bladder pain can involve other regions of the body if it is caused by cancers, endometriosis, or bowel disorders. These conditions can lead to bladder damage, and their symptoms may include bloody urine, fever, or pain in the lower back, abdomen or side.

Urinary disorders that cause bladder pain

Bladder pain may be caused by urinary disorders including:

  • Benign or malignant tumors
  • Congenital abnormality
  • Injury
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Kidney infection
  • Urethral stricture
  • Urinary tract infection

Other causes of bladder pain

Bladder pain can also be caused by other causes including:

  • Bowel disorders
  • Endometriosis

Serious or life-threatening causes of bladder pain

In some cases, bladder pain may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated. These include cancers of the bladder or surrounding organs.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of bladder pain

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your bladder pain including:

  • When did you first notice your bladder pain?
  • When do you feel bladder pain?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of bladder pain?

The potential complications of bladder pain depend on their cause. Bladder pain that is associated with a serious medical condition, such as cancer, may have long-term and even life-threatening complications. Further, bladder pain that is associated with an acute bladder infection could lead to a more serious complication, such as widespread infection.

Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications.Left untreated, conditions that cause bladder pain could lead to the following complications:

  • Organ failure or dysfunction
  • Permanent or chronic pain
  • Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)
  • Spread of cancer
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 7
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. What I need to know about interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC).
  2. Urinary tract infection - adults. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  3. Hanno PM, Burks DA, Clemens JQ, et al. AUA guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome. J Urol 2011; 185:2162.