An introduction to bladder infection and menopause
Bladder infections, or cystitis, are bacterial infections which are unfortunately are all too common with the menopause. If the infection occurs elsewhere in the urinary tract, such as the urethra or kidneys, it is sometimes referred to as a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
The symptoms of a bladder infection or UTI can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, including cloudy and smelly urine, a burning or painful sensation when urinating, or a sensation of needing to urinate even when the bladder is empty. In some cases, you may also develop a slight temperature or fever. A bladder infection should be diagnosed by a doctor.
Why does the menopause cause bladder infections?
For a start, women are more prone to bladder infections than men, as they have a shorter urethra, and it is closer to the bladder. This makes it easier for bacteria to spread into the urinary tract and cause infection.
Some women also develop bladder infections and UTIs after having sex. This is because it can weaken the walls of the urinary tract. Emptying the bladder before and after sexual activity will help to flush out any bacteria.
However, the good old hormone oestrogen has an impact here as well. As the level of oestrogen drops, the lining of the urethra thins and becomes more sensitive, but equally, the urethral muscle loses its strength and tone. This can result in a weak bladder and symptoms of urinary incontinence, but it also means that small pockets can develop in which bacteria can flourish. pH levels in the urinary tract often change during the menopause, also making you more prone to infection.
What home remedies are there for bladder infections?
Although home remedies may not cure the infection, they can make you feel more comfortable. It is important to give yourself plenty of rest to give your immune system the chance to fight off infection.
Drink plenty of water to help flush out the bacteria from your urinary tract. You can also try drinking cranberry or lemon juice as these have mild antibiotic properties and may help to ease infection. You should try to drink these with only naturally occurring sugar. They can also act as a preventative measure against bladder infections.
Cut caffeine and alcohol from your diet during an infection, as these irritate the bladder and will worsen symptoms of pain and burning. They may also cause recovery from infection to slow down.
It is important to urinate as much as you need; holding on when you need to go to the toilet can cause bacteria to build up in the urinary tract, making you more prone to infection. If you are suffering from an infection, this is particularly important, as this will encourage the bacteria to leave the system.
Are there herbal remedies to help me?
It is possible to take herbal remedies to support home measures while easing your symptoms of a bladder infection. Uva-ursi, also known as bearberry, is a small plant found in Europe, and has flowers of similar shape to a bladder. However, it is for more than this coincidence that Uva-ursi is used to relieve the symptoms of a bladder infection. It is thought to have antiseptic properties and promotes excretion of bacteria in the urine.
However, if you are looking for a herbal solution to support you throughout the stages of the menopause, and all the associated side-effects, then soy isoflavones which mimic the effect of oestrogen in the body can help to reduce unwanted symptoms. These can be found in herbal remedies, such as A.Vogel’s Menopause Support.
What about conventional medicines?
Although many women are reluctant to go to their doctor with bladder related problems, a suspected bladder infection should be checked by a doctor, particularly if there is blood in the urine or symptoms have lasted for more than 48 hours. A doctor will ask for a urine sample to check for the presence of bacteria and certain chemicals associated with infection.
If the diagnosis of a urine infection is confirmed, your doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics to fight the bacterial infection. If you are suffering from symptoms of pain and burning, he may also suggest phenazopyridine hydrochloride to ease these symptoms. Treatment of a bladder infection or UTI should not be delayed, as the infection may worsen or spread.