If you’re an aging woman, noticing changes in your body is nothing new, it comes with the territory. But if you are going through or have gone through menopause, you face a unique set of challenges, and will likely notice big changes in your vaginal and urologic condition. From uncomfortable sex, to change in libido, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, and vaginal infections, it can be difficult to know what is (and isn’t) a normal part of aging.
As women age and go through menopause, they experience hormonal changes, the most dramatic being an abrupt change in the production of the female sex hormone, estrogen. After menopause, ovaries stop making this hormone, and the body experiences changes as a result. Change in estrogen levels makes it especially difficult for women to maintain healthy urologic function during and after menopause.
Problems with urologic function are sometimes accepted as a stressful, unavoidable reality of getting older, but they don’t have to be. There are many treatment options available at WWMG that can help you get back to living your life free of embarrassing, painful, or irritating symptoms. But before discussing treatment options, this blog will first examine the role of estrogen in relation to Urinary Incontinence and Urinary Tract Infections, two of the most common conditions women experience in menopause.
Estrogen and Urinary Incontinence
Urinary Incontinence, or involuntary bladder leakage, is a problem that affects millions of Americans. Studies show that up to a third of men and women in the U.S suffer from Urinary Incontinence, making it a much more common problem than most people realize. Urinary Incontinence is often an embarrassing and inconvenient problem, and those that suffer from it may begin to plan their life based on their proximity to the nearest restroom or change of clothes.
While it may happen to anyone, Urinary Incontinence is most common in older adults, and women are more likely to experience Urinary Incontinence than their male counterparts.
In menopause, women experience declining levels of estrogen in the blood stream. Drop in estrogen and other hormone changes can affect muscle strength in the pelvic region1. This makes women who are pregnant, giving birth, or going through menopause, more likely to experience Urinary Incontinence. The risk of Urinary Incontinence increases with the number of children, regardless of the chosen birthing method (cesarean section or vaginal delivery).
If you are suffering from Urinary Incontinence, there are natural remedies, as well as medical treatments that are proven to help lessen symptoms. Combining the use of natural remedies with a doctor-prescribed medical treatment often yields the best results.
If you are ready to seek medical treatments for your Urinary Incontinence, there are a few medical treatments available. Many women report an improvement in Urinary Incontinence symptoms when estrogen is taken in the form of Hormone Replacement Therapy. However, the use of locally acting vaginal estrogen is the preferred method of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence and has been proven to help.
Natural remedies include:
- Kegal exercise.
- Eliminating tobacco products, alcohol, and caffeine.
- Staying hydrated
Taking Magnesium and Vitamin D is also shown to help symptoms of Urinary Incontinence, but use of these supplements should be discussed with your doctor beforehand. Obesity is also linked to Urinary Incontinence due to excess pressure on the bladder. Make sure to talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.
Urinary Incontinence doesn’t have to be an accepted part of aging. If you are suffering from Urinary Incontinence, schedule an appointment with one of our Urologists today to discuss the best treatment options for you.
Estrogen and Urinary Tract Infections
A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection caused by fungi, viruses, and bacteria in the urinary tract. Urination typically washes microbes out of the body, but there are a number of complications that can prevent total cleansing, and result in a UTI. As the second most common type of infection in the body, UTI’s account for about 8.1 million visits to the doctor each year. Women are at greatest risk of contracting a UTI, and have more than a 50 % chance of getting a UTI in their lifetime, and a 25% chance of getting a second one within 6 months.
Symptoms of a UTI may include:
- Painful, burning feeling during urination
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent and intense urge to urinate
- Pain in the back or side
- Passing small amounts of urine, despite strong urge to urinate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cloudy, or bloody urine.
A recent study found that estrogen catalyzes production of antimicrobial substances in the bladder, and strengthens the urinary tract tissue making it more difficult for bacteria to grow on the deeper layers of the bladder. When women go through menopause, their ovaries stop producing estrogen, thereby weakening their body’s natural defense strategy against UTI’s. This makes postmenopausal women more susceptible to infection. Medical Treatments, including treatments that involve delivering estrogen vaginally, have been seen to prevent repeat UTIs in postmenopausal women. There are a few ways you can reduce your risk of contracting a UTI.
UTI preventative guidelines:
- Wipe from front to back.
- Take showers, avoid baths.
- Urinate every 4 hours (don’t “hold it”).
- Urinate after sex.
- Wear breathable undergarments.
- Drink lots of water.
If you’re susceptible to UTIs talk to your doctor about cranberry supplements, as they have also been seen to reduce the risk of infection.
Aging is an unavoidable part of life, but changes in urologic function that often come with aging, such as Urinary Incontinence and Urinary Tract Infections, don’t have to be. Schedule an appointment with a Urologist at Western Washington Medical Group to discuss prevention plans and treatment options.
This is a guest post from Chantel Bailey. All views contained herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Western Washington Medical Group.