We’ve heard the whispers about unintentional bladder leaks from postpartum friends and older family members. Or perhaps we’ve personally dealt with constipation or lower back pain from pelvic floor dysfunction. Whether incontinence or an overactive bladder, urological conditions are prevalent among women of all ages. And yet there still remains embarrassment or shame for many surrounding these issues, which can discourage those affected from seeking help.
According to Toronsa Simpson, a nurse practitioner with CARTI Urology, there’s no reason for women to suffer in silence. These common health concerns can be addressed, often with simple lifestyle modifications or targeted therapies. To help ease the stigma, she’s breaking down the urological issues female patients report nearly every day and the treatment options that can help improve their quality of life.
The issue: Pelvic organ prolapse
The 411: The pelvic floor muscles weaken with age, as well as with childbirth, hormonal changes and weight gain. This can lead to prolapse, where organs shift from their usual positions into the vagina. Signs of potential prolapse may include pressure, pain with sexual intercourse, a weak urinary stream or urine leakage. Following an exam, a urologist may recommend pelvic floor exercises, behavioral changes like weight loss, a pessary (a supportive prosthetic device) or reconstructive surgery if the case is severe.
The issue: Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
The 411: While any woman can get a UTI, these infections occur more frequently with age due to hormonal changes and changes in pelvic floor tissue’s elasticity, which can limit the ability to empty the bladder. A urologist can provide a tailored prevention plan, which may include suppressive therapy like low-dose antibiotics or easy-to-follow measures, such as increasing water intake, urinating after intercourse, good personal hygiene, probiotics or supplements.
The issue: Urinary incontinence
The 411: Incontinence affects women of all ages. Like pelvic organ prolapse, however, it is generally more common in older patients who have experienced childbirth, menopause or weight gain. Urologists may suggest lifestyle modifications, pelvic floor physical therapy or third-line therapies, such as sacral nerve stimulation or injections of Botox into the bladder, to help minimize women’s symptoms.
The issue: Dyspareunia
The 411: Painful sexual intercourse is associated with several urogynecological and urological conditions. Seeking medical assistance for dyspareunia can lead to the diagnosis and effective treatment of interstitial cystitis (inflamed bladder), UTIs, atrophic vaginitis (thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls), pelvic floor prolapse, urethral stones, diverticulum (small bulges near the urethra), distal ureteral stones and sexually transmitted diseases, to name a few.
If you suspect a potential urological condition or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, contact your health care provider.