Menopause and Bladder Control Problems
Also called urinary incontinence, bladder control problems are a common complication of menopause but can occur at any age. Fortunately, there are many options available to treat them.
How Does Menopause Affect Bladder Control?
During and after the process of menopause, levels of the female hormone estrogen drop significantly. In addition to controlling your monthly periods and body changes during pregnancy, estrogen helps keep the bladder and the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body, healthy.
Lack of estrogen may also cause the pelvic muscles responsible for bladder control to weaken, resulting in urinary incontinence.
What Kind of Bladder Control Problems May Develop After Menopause?
Some of the bladder control problems which may develop because of menopause include:
- Stress incontinence. Pressure from coughing, sneezing, or lifting can push urine through the weakened muscle. This kind of leakage is called stress incontinence. It is one of the most common kinds of bladder control problems in older women.
- Urge incontinence. Urge incontinence is another very common bladder control problem. With this condition, the bladder muscles squeeze at the wrong time -- or all the time -- and cause leaks.
- Painful urination.
- Nocturia. The need to get out of bed to urinate several times a night.
What Else Can Cause Bladder Control Problems in Older Women?
Menopause may not be the only reason for bladder control problems. There are other medical conditions that can cause incontinence, including:
- Previous pregnancies
- Nerve damage from diabetes or stroke
- Medications such as diuretics ("water pills"), tranquilizers
- Difficulty walking or moving
In addition, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol and/or caffeine can contribute to a bladder control problem.
How Are Bladder Control Problems Diagnosed?
To diagnose a bladder control problem, your doctor will first obtain a detailed medical history and perform a physical exam, including a pelvic exam. Your urine will also be tested for signs of infection or other problems.
In addition, your doctor may recommend that you keep a voiding diary, recording your symptoms and the situations in which you feel the urge to urinate or have leakage. This may help narrow the cause of your problem, and aid in determining the best treatment.