As we get older, our bodies change. Hormones fluctuate and we experience symptoms we may not have had or known about in our younger years. It can be alarming for women to experience changes in their vaginal and urological health during menopause, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to learn to live with the symptoms.
Many women experience hesitation or an urge to ignore the different health issues that may arise with the age and a change in estrogen levels, but we encourage our patients to make an appointment. Many symptoms can be treated, such as vaginal dryness, frequent UTI’s, and more.
Here’s What You Need to Know About Menopause
Menopause is the end of a woman’s reproductive cycle. The symptoms may begin just before your body stops menstruating or after. Because the female body has a finite number of eggs that it produces within a lifetime, there comes a point when it stops producing them.
On average, this happens after 40, but for some women in may occur earlier. It’s usually triggered by a health condition or surgical procedure that may cause damage to the ovaries and their function. Hysterectomies, premature ovarian failure, and chemotherapy are both known causes of premature menopause.
However, natural menopause doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a gradual transition that spans over several years. Perimenopause starts when the ovaries begin to produce less and less estrogen. This continues on until the ovaries stop producing eggs, which usually happens between 1 to 2 years after estrogen begins to drop. During this period, the symptoms of menopause begin to show.
After perimenopause is actual menopause. A woman doesn’t reach menopause until a year after their last menstruation. This is when eggs have ceased to release and most of your body’s estrogen ceases to be produced.
Symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Sleep deprivation
- Mood changes
- Urinary symptoms
- Painful intercourse
Postmenopause is the rest of a woman’s years after menopause. During this time, the symptoms of menopause usually diminish. However, there are several bodily changes, symptoms, and health risks that tend to occur during this time. These health risks are caused to the loss of estrogen.
The good news is that many of them are treatable thanks to modern medicine.
Urological Conditions Caused by Menopause
There are several different urological conditions that arise in women during menopause. They are quite common, as well, and nothing you should feel shy about discussing with your urologist. We see these cases on a regular basis, understand how they can impede your quality of life, and can help you find solutions to help ease or eliminate negative symptoms.
One of the most common issues is frequent urinary tract infections (better known as UTI’s). The frequency during and after menopause is caused by changes in the urinary tract, which occur due to a lack of estrogen.
This lack of estrogen allows bad bacteria to thrive, overpowering the good bacteria in your system and causing infections. Drinking plenty of water can help flush the bad bacteria out of your system. However, women with frequent UTI’s (two or more over the span of six months) may be recommended topical estrogen cream by their doctor.
Menopause can also cause issues with incontinence. Again, this is a result of the lack of estrogen, which supports the tissues within the urinary tract. Weakened tissue can lead to incontinence, yet there are several lifestyle changes that can lessen or help eliminate this issue.
Reducing bladder irritation, scheduling bathroom breaks every two to three hours, practicing Kegel exercises, quitting smoking, and losing excess weight are all great ways to help lessen the impact of incontinence.
You also are at heightened risk for kidney stone and kidney disease. The best way to keep your kidneys in good health, especially in your older years, is to stay hydrated, eat well, exercise, and lead a healthy lifestyle.
If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of menopause or any of the associated urological issues, be sure to set up an appointment with your doctor. It’s important that you identify and address these medical issues so that you can prevent them from getting worse. There are safe and effective solutions available to treat the urogynecological consequences of menopause.