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IBS and Bladder Problems


Updated June 30, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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It can be disheartening to have to deal with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and bladder problems at the same time. You may find some comfort in learning that you are not alone. Understanding what might be behind your double distress can help to point you in the direction of treatment options that will be of benefit for both problems.

Bladder Symptoms and IBS

Some researchers have estimated that urinary symptoms may be experienced by more than 50 percent of IBS sufferers. These symptoms include:

  • Urinary urgency
  • Frequent urination
  • Nocturia (need to get out of bed to urinate)
  • Incomplete emptying of the bladder

There is also some evidence that women who suffer from IBS also may be more likely to experience urinary incontinence than women who do not have IBS.

Talk To Your Doctor

If you are experiencing both bowel and bladder symptoms, make sure to bring both to the attention of your doctor. You can then work with your doctor to come up with relevant diagnoses, identify what factors might be contributing to both disorders, and develop a plan for best managing both problems.

Your doctor may identify your problems as being related to one of the following diagnoses, which have been associated with a concurrence of IBS and bladder problems. Learning more about each can help lead you to some helpful treatment options.

  • Interstitial Cystitis (IC):
    Otherwise known as painful bladder syndrome, interstitial cystitis is a condition in which a person experiences chronic pain and discomfort associated with the bladder. Both IC and IBS have been associated with visceral hypersensitivity. In terms of identifying causes to explain an overlap between IC and IBS, researchers have been looking at the role of inflammation, a "cross-sensitization" among the nerves of the gut and bladder, and other possible centralized dysfunction.

  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction:
    Pelvic floor dysfunction is a condition in which the muscles found within the pelvis that are responsible for coordinating urination and defecation do not work as they should. Having such a dysfunction might well explain why a person would suffer bowel and bladder symptoms simultaneously. If you are diagnosed with pelvic floor dysfunction, you will find that there are a variety of treatment options available, depending on the severity of your condition.

  • Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CP/CPPS):
    Some men may find themselves with the misfortune of suffering from this chronic form of prostatitis alongside IBS. CP/CPPS results in a variety of symptoms, including urinary pain, urgency and incontinence.

  • Urge Incontinence:
    This urinary disorder results in symptoms of urinary urgency and involuntary urine passage. Research regarding an overlap between urge incontinence and IBS is quite scarce. Urge incontinence requires a complete medical workup as a variety of different health conditions may be at the root of symptoms.


Mayer, E. & Buffington, C. "Interstitial Cystitis and Related Pain Syndromes: Overlap of Bladder and Bowel Dysfunction". UCLA Center for Neurobiology of Stress. Fact Sheet Accessed May 22, 2011.

Pezzone, M. "Chronic Pelvic Pain and the Overlap of Chronic Pelvic Pain Disorders" International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Fact Sheet Accessed May 22, 2011.

Wang, et.al. "Pelvic floor disorders and quality of life in women with self-reported irritable bowel syndrome" Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2010 31:424-431.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed physician. It is essential that you discuss with your doctor any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

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