An irritable bladder is characterized by the frequent urge to urinate, even when the bladder contains only a small amount of urine. Though this symptom may also be present with various urinary tract infections, an irritable bladder is not an infection, but rather an irritation of the urethra (you-REE-thruh). The urethra is the tube which carries urine out from the bladder. One sign of irritable bladder, also called chronic urethral (your-REE-thrul) syndrome, is when antibiotics fail to relieve tenderness of the urethra and the urgency to urinate. Doctors believe that the syndrome may be caused by certain foods and beverages that irritate the urethra. For this reason, you'll probably be instructed to avoid or limit spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and other substances. This may eliminate symptoms, without the need for medication. Doing Kegel exercises to strengthen the vaginal muscles may also be helpful. In some ways, an irritable bladder is similar to a condition called interstitial (IN-ter-STIH shul) cystitis (sist-EYE-tiss), which is a chronic inflammation of the bladder lining. However, irritable bladder often responds to changes in diet alone, whereas interstitial cystitis does not. For more information on an irritable bladder, consult your health care provider.