When a woman approaches menopause, she has the opportunity to reassess her health and wellness. Often, this transition from having a period to not presents unique risks that can be managed with good lifestyle habits and proper medical care. Here, we want to discuss how menopause – and its lack of estrogen – can create specific urinary symptoms.
Estrogen and Urogenital Health
Estrogen is vital to the regeneration of tissue in the female urologic and reproductive systems. As estrogen continues to drop as a woman approaches complete menopause, symptoms such as vaginal laxity are often noticed. Referred to as vaginal atrophy, the laxity that results from the weakening of muscles is one problem that leads to another. A weak vaginal canal usually coincides with increasing weakness in the bladder and urethra. In combination, all of this weakness adds up to susceptibility to urinary incontinence.
Another way in which the vaginal and genital areas transform through menopause is in the matter of pH. The level of pH in anything tells us how acidic that substance or area is. In the case of the vagina and vulva, a certain amount of acidity is necessary to prevent yeast overgrowth and bacterial infection. As it so happens, estrogen is involved in the maintenance of pH balance. It is for this reason that menopausal women may experience more frequent urinary tract infections than they did before menopause.
Symptoms of Urinary and Vaginal Atrophy
While mood swings and hot flashes subside after menopause, symptoms of urogenital atrophy may increase. Common symptoms include:
- Stress urinary incontinence, or involuntary urine leakage with physical exertion such as laughing.
- Urge urinary incontinence, or a strong, sudden urge to urinate.
- Nocturia, or the frequent need to urinate throughout the night.
- Frequent urination.
- Vaginal dryness and itching.
- Painful intercourse due to lack of lubrication.
- Recurrent urinary tract infections.
Supporting Bladder Health After Menopause
Depending on the degree of symptoms, some women choose to receive hormone replacement therapy from their gynecologist to promote vaginal health. Additionally, there are over-the-counter options for estrogen support that involve topical application only. Due to the systemic effects of absorbed estrogen, it is essential for a woman to speak with her healthcare provider about hormone replacement therapies and which may be right for her.
Bladder support is another matter. In many cases, there is no need for hormone replacement to improve bladder control. Strategies that women may implement include:
- Perform Kegel exercises every day (3 sets of 10 performed a few times a day is ideal).
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Bladder training techniques that increase bladder capacity.
- Reduce caffeine intake.
- Set a cut-off time each day for fluid consumption.
Sometimes, urinary incontinence requires medical treatment. The team at Collin County Urology in Plano offers compassionate care aimed at achieving optimal results. For more information on how to treat urinary incontinence, call (972) 403-5425.