September 26, 2022

Gender differences with bladder pain

Gender differences in the pain experiences and treatment needs of people with a urologic pain syndrome could be used to improve interventions, Vanderbilt researchers report.

by Leigh MacMillan

Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) is a chronic condition that causes bladder pressure, pain and lower urinary tract symptoms. It affects 3-8 million women and 1-4 million men in the U.S. 

Lindsey McKernan, PhD, MPH, and colleagues assessed gender differences in IC/BPS using validated patient-reported outcome measures and qualitative analysis of focus group discussions. 

They found gender differences in both symptom profiles and patient experiences of symptoms and their impact. Psychological distress was elevated across both genders. Women reported greater pain intensity and extent, but not significantly greater impairment from pain. Interactions with the health care system also differed between genders: men reported feeling supported and involved in treatment decisions while women reported feeling dismissed and disbelieved. 

The findings, published in Frontiers in Pain Research, indicate gender differences in the pain experiences and treatment needs of people with IC/BPS and could be used to improve interventions and reduce gender health inequality in the care experience of these patients.

Other authors of the study include Sula Windgassen, PhD, Susanna Sutherland, PhD, Michael Finn, PhD, Kemberlee Bonnet, MA, David Schlundt, PhD, W. Stuart Reynolds, MD, MPH, and Roger Dmochowski, MD, MMHC. 

The research was conducted with support from the Vanderbilt Patient Centered Outcomes Research Education and Training Initiative, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (grant HS022990), and National Institutes of Health (grants DK118118, TR000445, TR002243).