Frequent UTIs and Menopause - What Can You Do?
4 minute read
Are you running to the bathroom all of the time, having pain with urination, and experiencing pelvic pain? Do you recognize these tell-tale signs of a urinary tract infection(UTI) and wonder why you’ve been having more infections ever since your started transitioning into menopause? You are not alone. The natural changes that are happening to your body as it prepares to enter and finally reach menopause predispose you to developing UTIs. Thankfully, there are effective ways of preventing and treating menopausal UTIs.
How Do UTIs Happen?
Urinary tract infections are very common. 50% of women will develop at least one UTI in their lifetime. A UTI occurs when bacteria has entered the urinary tract, usually through the urethra, and has begun to multiply in the bladder. Symptoms of UTIs include the following:
Urinary frequency and urgency
Burning with urination
Urine that is cloudy, blood-tinged, and strong-smelling
Pelvic or abdominal pain
If the infection persists, you may develop a fever and lower back pain indicating that your kidneys may be infected.
You may be wondering where the infecting bacteria comes from and how it enters your urethra? We all have bacteria that live in our genital and anal areas. This is completely normal. This bacteria can enter your urethra during sex or when you wipe yourself after using the bathroom (especially if you are wiping from back to front, which is not recommended), which can lead to UTIs.
Why Are Menopausal Women More Prone to UTIs? Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause
As you go transition into menopause, your body’s production of estrogen begins to decline and your estrogen levels fluctuate and eventually decrease. These hormonal changes affect your urinary tract, vaginal tract, and vulva in ways that can make you prone to developing UTIs. These physical changes and the symptoms associated with them are known as the genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM).
Declining Estrogen Levels and Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause
As your body’s estrogen levels fluctuate and trend downward, the tissues of your urinary tract become thinner, less hydrated, and less elastic. 50% of menopausal women suffer from GSM and experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness, vaginal and vulvar itching, vaginal tightness, sexual symptoms, and urinary discomfort.
Menopausal Symptoms that Increase Your Risk of UTIs
GSM leaves you vulnerable to UTIs. Changes in the bacterial flora of your vagina, changes in vaginal pH, and the breakdown of natural mucosal barriers that prevent infection are all thought to play a role. Knowing how the physiological changes associated with GSM affect your UTI risk will help you to understand the ways in which you can lower this risk and prevent painful UTI symptoms from developing.
Thinning and Dryness of Vaginial Tissue
As your vaginal tissues become thinner and drier, they become fragile and susceptible to micro tears and lacerations. Furthermore, your declining estrogen levels are causing changes in the bacterial makeup of your vagina, also known as the urogenital microbiome. Together, these changes make you more susceptible to bacterial infections.
Changes to Your Bladder
Along with your vaginal tissue, the tissues of your bladder and urethra (the duct that carries urine out of your body from your bladder) are also changing in response to declining estrogen. Your bladder becomes less elastic and has a decreased capacity, which can make it difficult for your body to hold as much urine as it did previously. You may experience urinary incontinence in which urine will leak from your bladder.
Paradoxically, because your bladder is less elastic, when you do urinate you may actually have difficulty emptying your bladder, leaving residual urine. This leftover urine in your bladder is a fertile field for bacterial growth leading to more frequent urinary tract infections.
Urine is typically sterile and flows in one direction—out of your body. When your bladder is overloaded or retaining urine and the flow is hindered, that urine is more easily contaminated by bacteria which leads to infection.
Alloy can help you understand your menopause-related UTI symptoms, provide you with treatment options that will help prevent them from reoccurring, and get you back to feeling like yourself.
Let’s first address what to do if you already have a UTI.
Prescription Antibiotics from Your Healthcare Provider
If you are experiencing the symptoms of a UTI, you should call your physician. Most physicians will treat UTIs with antibiotics that can be called directly into the pharmacy without an in person visit. If you have had multiple UTIs or are not sure if what you are experiencing is a UTI, an in-person visit where you can be evaluated for other causes and can leave a urine sample may be the best option. It is very important that you not start antibiotics (old prescriptions or borrowed ones) if you need to leave a urine sample. Even one or two doses is enough to invalidate your results. Typically you will need to take an antibiotic for 1 to 3 days and you should experience significant improvement of your symptoms within 24 hours.
How to Prevent UTIs During Menopause
Knowing that menopausal women are prone to UTIs, it is natural that you will want to do everything you can to avoid getting infected. There are several steps you can take to improve your chances of staying healthy and UTI-free.
Menopause Hormone Therapy with Alloy
Menopause hormone therapy (MHT) is generally considered the most effective treatment for GSM related changes and symptoms, including those that predispose you to UTIs. At Alloy, MHT consists of FDA-approved, plant-based bioidentical estradiol which will supplement your body’s naturally declining estrogen levels.
Estradiol Vaginal Cream
Research has shown that estradiol vaginal creams significantly reduce the number of recurrent UTIs in postmenopausal women. Topical estrogens restore vaginal pH and hydrate the vaginal walls, thus reversing the thinning and drying effects of your body’s decreased estrogen production. Estrogen creams are absorbed directly into the area of application and do not lead to increased levels of estrogen in your bloodstream. Remember, estrogen therapy is for prevention of urinary tract infections. If you have an active urinary tract infection, antibiotics are required. Not all urinary discomfort is due to infection. Pain with urination, urgency, and frequency that are chronic are more likely to be due to GSM.
Estradiol Pill or Patch
Estradiol pills or patches can be used for healthy women who do not smoke, who have normal blood pressure, and have no history of heart disease, liver disease or blood clots. Systematic menopause hormone therapy via estradiol pills or patches will increase the estrogen levels circulating in your bloodstream and will therefore not only treat GSM, but will also help you with other menopausal symptoms including hot flashes and sleep disturbance.
Wipe from Front to Back
After having a bowel movement or urinating, always wipe from front to back. This will ensure that you are not spreading bacteria that can cause infection to your urethra.
Drinking Cranberry Juice
The research into the effectiveness of drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry extracts as a means of reducing the frequency of recurrent UTIs show mixed results. There are currently ongoing clinical trials looking at the impact of cranberry juice consumption on the vaginal microbiome of post-menopausal women. Given that we do know that drinking cranberry juice is safe and inexpensive and that it may be effective in preventing UTIs, you may consider giving this a try.
Take Showers Instead of Baths and Avoiding Fragranced Soaps
Other recommendations for preventing recurrent UTIs include taking more showers rather than baths and avoiding the use of fragranced soaps. Warm bath water is thought to be conducive to bacterial growth, and fragranced soaps may alter the vaginal environment and make you more susceptible to UTIs.
If You Are Suffering from Frequent UTIs as a Result of Menopause Symptoms, Alloy Can Help
If you are suffering from frequent UTIs as a result of menopause, Alloy can help you find relief. Start by taking a free assessment. We will evaluate your answers and make treatment recommendations tailored to your needs.
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