Why UTIs Increase Post Menopause and What You Can Do About it

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates that more than half of all women will develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in their life. Unfortunately, your risk of experiencing one of these painful infections increases significantly after menopause.

Barry Landfield, MD, of First Med Marin in Greenbrae, California, is a family medicine specialist who is widely recognized for his skill and expertise as a physician. He also has extensive experience in treating UTIs.

Read on to learn what Dr. Landfield has to say about the causes, treatment, and prevention of recurrent UTIs after menopause.

UTIs and the female anatomy

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.

What does menopause have to do with 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.

How do you treat and prevent postmenopausal UTIs?

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, Dr. Landfield may prescribe treatments directed at the physical changes associated with menopause. He might, for instance, suggest vaginal estrogen creams or rings to help restore normal bacterial balance in your vagina and reduce thinning and dryness of the vaginal tissue.

Sometimes Dr. Landfield orders further studies to identify problems such as pelvic organ prolapse, which often leads to urinary incontinence and frequent UTIs. You can rely on Dr. Landfield to design an effective treatment and prevention strategy that meets your specific needs.

For expert medical help with recurrent postmenopausal UTIs, schedule a visit with Dr. Landfield at First Med Marin today. 

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