CONDITIONS AND DISEASES WE TREAT

POST-MENOPAUSAL UROLOGICAL CHANGES

 

What are the genitourinary symptoms of menopause?

 

The vagina after menopause narrows, decreases in length, wasting of normal vaginal folds which decreases contact during intercourse.  In addition, the labia thins and there is reduced blood flow to the vagina.

 

We can recommend vaginal laser therapy and topical estrogen and testosterone cream to help decrease the progression and reverse these symptoms.  In addition, as a comprehensive pelvic floor center, we have in house physical therapy, skilled surgeons, and refer to sexual health therapists in town for a truly multi-disciplinary team.

 

Menopause & urinary symptoms at a glance:

 

Vaginal dryness is extremely common during menopause.  Changes in a woman’s urinary function often accompany menopause. A primary cause is urogenital atrophy, which is the deterioration of the urinary tract and vagina. These urinary changes occur for two reasons: Menopause reduces the amount of the female hormone estrogen, and a lack of estrogen reduces the urinary tract’s ability to control urination. Advanced age, which usually coincides with menopause, also has various debilitating effects on the pelvic area organs and tissues.

 

Treatments vary and include dietary changes, strengthening exercises, topical estrogen for the vagina, laser therapy and surgery.

 

Causes of menopausal urinary symptoms

 

When menopause occurs, estrogen production is reduced, which is the major cause of urogenital atrophy. Atrophy means a wasting away of muscle mass, and urogenital atrophy involves atrophy of the vagina as well as atrophy of the urinary tract.

The lack of estrogen weakens the bladder (which holds urine) and the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body, compromising their ability to control urinary functions. Reduced estrogen also alters the acidity of the vulva and the vagina, which can make the area more prone to infection by bacteria or yeast overgrowth.

Menopausal urinary symptoms can also be caused by pelvic organ prolapse, in which one or more organs of the pelvic area drops down into the vagina. This can be due to stress from vaginal childbirth that becomes evident after menopause. Such stress may also cause damage to pelvic floor muscles, also resulting in urinary problems.

 

Menopause urinary symptoms

 

Symptoms associated with urogenital atrophy can range from minor inconveniences to emotional distress. Unlike other symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, urogenital atrophy symptoms can become worse as the woman ages.

 

Symptoms related to the urinary system are:

  • Stress incontinence: the leaking of urine due to the stress of laughing, coughing or sudden movement.
  • Urge incontinence: (irritable/overactive bladder): the sudden, strong urge to urinate, which can result in a loss of bladder control before one can reach a bathroom
  • An increased frequency in the need to urinate

Increased frequency of urinary tract infections secondary to pH changes, loss of natural healthy lactobacilli, and thinning of tissues

  • Waking up several times during the night to urinate (nocturia)

 

Symptoms related to vaginal atrophy are:

  • A reduction in the fullness of the vulva and the vagina
  • Dryness, itching and burning in the vagina or on the vulva
  • Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • Decreased lubrication with sexual activity
  • Increase in infections due to a change in the acidity of the vagina.
  • Vaginal bleeding

 

Treatments for menopausal urinary symptoms

 

As lack of estrogen is the primary cause of urogenital atrophy, the treatments for it in postmenopausal women involve topical hormone therapy or vaginal laser technology. These can help restore the vagina to premenopausal condition and relieve many symptoms of urogenital atrophy.

 

Systemic hormone therapy  (taken orally and affecting the whole system) may reduce the urinary symptoms of urgency, frequency, nocturia and painful urination, but there is continuing debate about the effectiveness of systemic HT in treating urogenital atrophy.

 

Local estrogen, applied externally, is helpful in relieving the symptoms of urinary urgency, frequency and sometimes stress incontinence, and can also help prevent urogenital atrophy and the recurrence of urinary tract infections.

The most common treatment for vaginal atrophy symptoms is low-dose vaginal estrogen replacement, utilizing creams, tablets or vaginal rings.

 

However, some women are not able to have HT for any menopausal urinary symptoms such as women with breast cancer. For symptoms of vaginal atrophy, they can use vaginal moisturizers for normal relief and vaginal lubricants to relieve dryness prior to intercourse or vaginal laser technology.

 

Non-hormonal treatments for bladder control symptoms, including those related to pelvic organ prolapse and weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, can involve lifestyle changes and medical procedures. These include:

Reducing caffeine

Bladder-training techniques that increase the capacity to hold urine, control the timing of urination, and control body functions with the help of a machine (called biofeedback, or Intone) or with a trained pelvic floor physical therapist

Maintaining a healthy weight

Electrical stimulation of the bladder muscles

Vaginal laser therapy

A pessary device inserted in the vagina to help hold up a prolapsed bladder

Various surgical techniques to restructure support for the prolapsed organ.