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More than half of all women develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in their life, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Unfortunately, once you enter menopause the risk of UTIs increases dramatically.
At Urgent Care of Ada in Ada, Ok, our family medicine specialists have extensive experience in treating UTIs. They offer the following overview and tips for preventing recurrent post-menopausal UTIs.
Infection-causing bacteria typically gain entrance to your urinary tract through the urethra, that tiny tube-like structure that carries urine away from your bladder and out of the body. Once they gain a foothold in the urethra, bacteria can quickly multiply and spread upward into the bladder and other structures in your urinary system.
The male urethra exits the body at the tip of the penis and takes a relatively long and winding path from the bladder, making it somewhat difficult for bacteria to settle in and multiply. The female urethra, however, is short and straight, leads directly to your bladder, and exits just behind the clitoris, very near the vaginal and rectal openings where bacteria naturally thrive.
These structural differences help explain why women are much more likely to develop UTIs than men. Female anatomy and hormonal changes also play significant roles in recurrent postmenopausal UTIs.
In younger women, UTIs are often linked to sexual intercourse, which can transfer bacteria from the rectum and vagina to the urethra. Postmenopausal UTIs, however, are frequently related to decreased estrogen levels and associated physical changes.
Estrogen helps naturally occurring “good” bacteria (lactobacilli) within the vagina thrive. Lactobacilli produces an acid that lowers the pH in your vagina, which controls infection-causing bacteria also present in the vagina. When estrogen levels decline, the “bad” bacteria multiply and increase your risk of UTI.
Other menopausal changes that elevate your risk of UTIs include:
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent recurrent UTIs after menopause.
Most UTIs, including postmenopausal infections, are easily treated with a round of antibiotics. The priority then becomes preventing these painful infections from recurring.
The same habits that can help prevent UTIs before menopause remain effective afterward, including:
Avoiding harsh soaps and feminine hygiene products such as deodorants that irritate and inflame sensitive skin is also recommended.
In addition, you may be prescribed treatments directed at the physical changes associated with menopause, such as vaginal estrogen creams or rings. These treatments can help restore normal bacterial balance in your vagina and reduce thinning and dryness of the vaginal tissue.
If you’re suffering from frequent UTIs at any age, the team at Urgent Care of Ada can help. Call us at 580-217-0186. Non-urgent appointments may be requested online.