Most people don’t realize it, but urological conditions are just as common among women as they are in men. As a result, many women resign themselves to just living with what are actually very treatable conditions. Read on to find out about the most common urological conditions impacting women and how a urologist can help.
Overactive Bladder (OAB) affects men and women equally. OAB is technically a group of symptoms, not a disease in its own right. The most common of these symptoms is a sudden, pressing need to urinate. Some women with OAB wake up multiple times during the night to use the bathroom and many experiences some incontinence alongside other OAB symptoms.
Diagnosing OAB in women usually requires the help of a doctor who specializes in urology. When women arrive for their appointments, they can expect to undergo a physical exam and urine testing. Most patients will also be asked to keep a bladder diary. Some may need to undergo additional tests, such as cystoscopies or urodynamic testing, to rule out other conditions.
There are several courses of treatment for OAB. Many women find that lifestyle changes alone are enough to positively impact their conditions. Some are also prescribed medications or Botox treatments while others undergo nerve stimulation. It’s rare for patients to require surgery for OAB.
IC/Bladder Pain Syndrome
Bladder pain syndrome (BPS) and interstitial cystitis (IC) are two terms for the same problem. Women with this condition experience pain and pressure in their bladders without any clear cause. Symptoms range in severity and become chronic when they last for more than six weeks, even if they come and go. Many women with IC/BPS also experience other urological symptoms or underlying health problems.
Technically, both men and women can be diagnosed with IC/BPS. However, at least two to three times as many women experience this problem as men. Researchers have yet to uncover what causes IC/BPS, so there are no definitive diagnostic tests for it. A urologist will have to rule out other problems that could be causing the symptoms before making a diagnosis.
There’s no one treatment plan that works for every IC/BPS patient. Most interventions are aimed at symptom control. Urologists typically begin by prescribing lifestyle changes before moving on to prescription drugs and neuromodulation therapy. If these interventions don’t work, cyclosporine and surgery are also viable options for some patients.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that affects the walls and muscles of the vagina and other adjacent organs. This condition is most common in postpartum women who experience injuries to their pelvic floor muscles during childbirth, but it can also occur following other strenuous activities.
Common symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse include feelings of discomfort while sitting and the development of a vaginal bulge. Incontinence, frequent need to urinate, and pain in the lower abdomen can also accompany this disorder. Diagnosis requires a series of tests and imaging studies, often including:
- Urodynamic testing
- A cystoscopy
- An ultrasound
Although pelvic organ prolapse can be uncomfortable, most urologists recommend against invasive surgeries. Many patients will recover without intervention or with behavioral therapy or estrogen replacement therapy alone. It’s only when patients are in pain and these interventions fail that surgery becomes a viable option.
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)
SUI refers to urine leaks that occur when women experience sudden pressure on the bladder or urethra. The condition is the most common cause of urinary incontinence in women, but men can also develop SUI. SUI differs from OAB in that it is a urethral problem, not a bladder problem. Some people experience both SUI and OAB and are diagnosed with mixed incontinence.
The most obvious symptom of SUI is urine leaking during physical activities. These leaks can be minor or quite severe and can occur only during forceful activities or even less-strenuous ones. Urologists can often diagnose SUI without the need for extensive testing. If there’s some question as to whether SUI is the problem, more comprehensive tests, like urodynamic studies, bladder scans, or cystoscopies, may be required.
Treatment for SUI focuses on symptom relief. Some women find that lifestyle changes alone are able to minimize their discomfort and control leaks. Medical devices designed to support or reposition the urethra or occlude urine can also help. Surgical interventions are generally reserved for severe cases and women who do not respond to other forms of treatment.
Overflow Urinary Incontinence
Overflow urinary incontinence is most commonly diagnosed in men, but women can also develop this problem. Unlike OAB and SUI, it’s typically caused by blockages in the bladder or problems with the contraction of the bladder muscle. Women with overflow urinary incontinence may experience more frequent urination and near-constant dribbling.
Most treatment plans for overflow urinary incontinence involve using medical devices to collect or divert urine. However, women with bladder blockages may be able to find relief from their symptoms after the underlying problem is resolved. Patients with ongoing overflow urinary incontinence may also want to use specialized skincare products to prevent rashes and discomfort.
Frequent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Most women experience a UTI at some point in their lives, with many occurring in childhood. These infections are treated with antibiotics and can usually be resolved without the need to consult a specialist. However, women who experience frequent UTIs may want to schedule an appointment with a urologist to determine what is causing the infections to recur.
There are several factors that can cause women to experience repeated UTIs. They include kidney stones, bladder stones, changes in estrogen levels, genetic predisposition, and abnormal urinary tract shape. Depending on what underlying cause the urologist believes is to blame, doctors may be able to suggest lifestyle changes or antibiotic regimens that could help.
Take the First Step Towards Effective Control
There’s no need for women to live with awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful urinary conditions. The experts at Atlantic Urology Clinics can help. Browse the website to learn more about these and other urological conditions that affect women or call (843) 347-2450 to schedule an appointment with a specialist.