Purpose: Although patients with interstitial cystitis frequently report symptom exacerbation due to stress, to our knowledge this association has not been empirically examined. We evaluated the effects of a laboratory mental stress challenge on symptoms of urgency and pain in patients with interstitial cystitis and healthy controls.
Materials and methods: A total of 14 females with interstitial cystitis and 14 age matched controls participated in a laboratory session, including a 60-minute baseline measurement, 25 minutes of mental stress tasks and 75 minutes of recovery. Acute symptoms of pain and urgency were assessed at voiding 15 minutes before the stressor, and 25, 70 and 100 minutes after stressor onset. Chronic symptoms were evaluated by questions from the Interstitial Cystitis Data Base survey.
Results: Patients reported significantly greater pain and urgency than controls at all 4 voidings (p <0.005). Pain increased in patients from the prestressor point to 25 minutes after stressor onset (p <0.005), remained elevated at 70, and decreased between 70 and 100. At 100 minutes patient pain remained significantly elevated above baseline (p = 0.018). Patient urgency was significantly elevated over baseline by 70 minutes after stressor onset (p <0.001) and significantly decreased between 70 and 100 minutes (p <0.002). Controls had no symptom changes with stress.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that an acute stressor evokes increased symptoms of pain and urgency in patients with interstitial cystitis but not in controls. Findings are consistent with sympathetic effects on inflammatory processes in interstitial cystitis. However, further evaluation of the mechanisms underlying stress related interstitial cystitis symptom exacerbation is needed to provide a more comprehensive understanding of these phenomena.