Menopause can make UTIs more common — here’s why they’re linked

Often not spoken of, this common and painful condition can affect many women - but steps can be taken to prevent it.

Menopause can make UTIs more common — here’s why they’re linked
woman in bed unwell
Feeling unwell? (Picture: Getty)

Cystitis and urinary tract infections (UTIs) can become chronic during the menopause.

Often not spoken of, this common and painful condition can affect many women – but steps can be taken to prevent it.

Dr Catherine Hood, who specialises in women’s health for cystitis treatment brand Effercitrate, says: ‘Most women will experience a bladder infection at some point, and the frequency increases with age.’

Studies have shown that around one-third of women experience recurrent urine infections and incontinence as a result of the menopause.

Cystitis is the inflammation of the bladder and can be caused by a urinary tract infection. 

Symptoms include the feeling of stinging or burning when passing urine, and feeling like you need to wee more than usual, but only a few drops may pass.

Cystitis can make you feel quite unwell, causing a high temperature and fever.

Why does the menopause make cystitis more common?

The menopause causes changes to hormones and the body which can lead to an increased risk of infection.

Dr Catherine says: ‘The urinary tract and its supporting tissues need oestrogen to remain healthy.

‘As women go through the menopause oestrogen levels fall, making the urinary tract open to increased infections, ultimately causing bouts of cystitis.

‘The urethra can become more delicate and prone to infection and can also shorten making it even easier for bacteria to make its way into the bladder.

‘The tissues supporting the bladder and urethra may also weaken resulting in the bladder not fully emptying when you go to the toilet. Then the urine left behind in the bladder can become prone to infection.’

A lack of oestrogen can also cause an imbalance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the vagina. This bad bacteria can travel to the urethra.

Bladder prolapse is another way infections can occur more frequently, as it can become harder to empty the bladder properly.

How to reduce the risk of cystitis during the menopause

  1. Diet: Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables for B vitamins and vitamin C. Include nuts and seeds for vitamin E and selenium, and lean meat, fish and dairy for zinc, red meat and wholegrains for iron.
  2. Lean on the toilet: Lean back on the loo when passing urine and wait for the last few drops to pass out.
  3. Keep dry: Keep your genital area dry from urine. If using liners, due to leaks of urine, make sure to change them regularly.
  4. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): A lack of oestrogen across menopause stages can make the lining of the urinary tract more susceptible to harmful bacteria. You may also have thinning and soreness of the tissue around the urethra, vulva and vagina. HRT can improve the health of the genitourinary tissues which have been made thin and delicate by lack of oestrogen at menopause. This can also help to prevent urinary infections.

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