Childhood sexual trauma in women with interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome: a case control study

Can Urol Assoc J. 2011 Dec;5(6):410-5. doi: 10.5489/cuaj.11110.


Background: The impact of early lifetime trauma on symptom severity and quality of life of patients with interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) has not been fully elucidated. We wanted to determine and compare the prevalence and impact of childhood traumatic events, with an emphasis on childhood sexual abuse, on patient symptoms, quality of life and other biopsychosocial parameters.

Methods: Subjects (female patients with IC/BPS and controls without IC/BPS) completed psychosocial phenotyping questionnaires, including a demographics/history form, and validated questionnaires focused on presenting symptoms (IC symptom indices, pain), psychosocial parameters (depression, anxiety, pain catastrophizing, sexual functioning, social support) and quality of life. Participants also completed the Childhood Traumatic Events Scale.

Results: Questionnaires were completed by 207 IC/BPS patients and 117 controls matched for age, partner status and education. It was found that before 17 years of age, the IC/BPS cases reported higher prevalence of "raped or molested" compared to controls (24.0% vs. 14.7%; p = 0.047). Within the IC/BPS group, cases reporting previous sexual abuse endorsed greater sensory pain, depression and poorer physical quality of life at the present time compared to IC cases without a sexual abuse history. In the controls only, those reporting previous sexual abuse endorsed more depression, anxiety, stress, social maladjustment poorer mental quality of life in the present time. When the analysis was corrected for potential multiple comparison error, none of the findings remained significant in either the IC/BPS or control groups.

Interpretation: Childhood traumatic events, in particular sexual abuse and extreme illness, are reported as more common in IC/BPS patients than controls. Early trauma, such as the occurrence of sexual abuse, is associated with some differences in patient adjustment (e.g., pain, quality of life, depression) but this impact appears to be, at most, very modest.