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Bladder Pain Syndrome (BPS): Care Instructions

Female and male urinary systems, including kidney, ureter, bladder, and urethra.


Bladder pain syndrome (BPS), also called interstitial cystitis, is a condition that causes bladder pain. The pain can be severe. It also causes an urgent, frequent need to urinate. The pain and other symptoms can make it hard for a person to function and have a good quality of life.

Doctors do not know what causes BPS. But they do know that it is not caused by an infection. Your doctor may do tests to make sure that you do not have an infection, kidney stones, or bladder cancer.

People with BPS often also have another condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome, painful menstrual periods, or fibromyalgia.

It may take several weeks or months to find a treatment that works. If diet and lifestyle changes do not help, you may need medicine. Your doctor may also put liquid or medicine into your bladder for a short time to treat the pain.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Avoid eating spicy foods or high-acid foods, such as tomatoes and oranges, if these foods seem to make your pain worse. Also, limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • If a certain food seems to cause pain in your bladder, stop eating it to see if the pain goes away.
  • See if using heat or cold helps relieve pain. This could be a warm bath, a heating pad, or an ice pack.
  • Find ways to relax and lower your stress, such as listening to restful music, having a massage, or meditating.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can irritate the bladder and cause bladder cancer. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Try bladder training. Set certain times to use the toilet and slowly increase the time between visits. This may help lengthen the time your bladder can hold urine.
  • Join a support group. Contact the ICNetwork at, or the Chronic Pain Association of Canada at for more information.
  • Talk to a counsellor. Look for one who has had training in managing chronic pain.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of a urinary infection. For example:
    • You have blood or pus in your urine.
    • You have pain in your back just below your rib cage. This is called flank pain.
    • You have a fever, chills, or body aches.
    • You have pain when you urinate.
    • You have groin or belly pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.