UTIs are something most of us have experienced at some point in our lives, unfortunately. For women in midlife, however, menopause can bring on a unique set of physical changes that increase one’s risk for developing UTIs. In this article, we’ll explore the connection between menopause and UTIs and how to treat them.
In general, UTIs are more common in women than in men. It is estimated that 50-60% of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime. One physiological reason is that women have a shorter urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body). The shorter urethra makes it easier for bacteria to travel from the vagina and rectum to the urinary tract.
During menopause, the risk of UTIs can increase for a number of reasons. One of the main factors is a change in hormones. Estrogen is a key hormone involved in balancing our vaginal pH. Estrogen allows for the healthy bacteria, known as Lactobacillus, to thrive and help ward off bad bacteria. As estrogen levels decline during menopause, we have less of that healthy bacteria to keep infections at bay. A decline in estrogen can also lead to a thinning and weakening of the vaginal tissue which can make us more prone to infection.
Another possible culprit during menopause is urinary incontinence. Incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine. Incontinence can occur as a result of weakened pelvic floor muscles as we age. Incontinence can make it difficult to fully empty your bladder which can increase the risk for UTIs as bacteria builds up in the bladder.
If you’ve ever experienced a UTI, you’re likely familiar with the most common and uncomfortable symptoms which can include:
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your Axia Women’s Health provider right away and get treated. If a UTI progresses, it can be potentially life-threatening. Signs that a UTI has progressed further and is impacting your kidneys can include:
If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s best to seek emergency medical care.
Fortunately, UTIs are largely treatable. A simple test known as an urinalysis can confirm the presence of a UTI. If you are experiencing recurrent UTIs, your provider may want to conduct additional testing to determine other potential underlying issues. Possible treatments can include:
Whether you’re experiencing troubling symptoms of a UTI, hot flashes, or sleeplessness associated with menopause, our Axia Women’s Health provider can help!
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