The Importance of Urology to Women's HealthBy: Brian Shay
Many people are surprised to learn that urology covers a wide range of conditions for both men and women. In addition to treating the male reproductive system, urologists treat diseases and conditions in the kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract – all of which affect both genders in all stages of life.
Women may experience urological health issues that are unique to their anatomy. While numerous urological conditions can affect women of all ages for a variety of reasons, childbirth, menopause or a hysterectomy can alter the body in ways that could lead to conditions including pelvic floor weakness, overactive bladder or inflammation of the bladder wall (interstitial cystitis). Fortunately, most conditions are highly treatable, especially when caught early.
I am one of three physicians at The Urology Group to be certified in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery. This specialization gives my colleagues, Dr. Rebecca Roedersheimer and Dr. Phil Buffington, better insight, leading to better patient care. We treat the following conditions:
• Urinary Tract Infections/Bladder Infections - Most women will develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point in their lives. The infection develops when bacteria enter the urinary tract. Women with a UTI may have pain or burning when they urinate. They may also feel a sudden urge to go to the bathroom, but then have trouble urinating. UTIs can be serious, but they also can be treated with antibiotics.
• Overactive Bladder (OAB) - OAB is a condition recognized by symptoms including urinary urgency, frequent urination, waking up at least twice a night to urinate or urge incontinence (leakage of urine). Treatments range from medication or nerve stimulation to Botox injections or surgery. At least 30 million Americans suffer from overactive bladder.
• Urinary Leakage/Incontinence - Millions of women experience involuntary loss of urine, called urinary incontinence. The condition affects all ages and women of every social and economic level, though urinary incontinence occurs more often in older women than in young women. The condition can be driven by stress or by a weakness in bladder or pelvic floor muscles and can be treated with a variety of approaches, depending on severity.
· Pelvic Floor Weakness/Vaginal Prolapse/"Dropped Bladder" - Pelvic floor prolapse occurs when the upper portion of the vagina loses its normal shape and sags or drops down into the vaginal canal or even outside of the vaginal opening. There are several types of pelvic floor prolapse including bladder, rectum, small bowel and uterus. It’s wise not to let the condition go on too long, as most worsening pelvic floor prolapses can only be fully corrected with surgery.
· Pelvic Pain/Interstitial Cystitis - Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a long-term inflammation of the bladder wall, also called painful bladder syndrome. Its symptoms are very similar to a urinary tract infection, such as urinary urgency and/or pelvic pain, but lack an identifiable cause such as bacterial infection. In the past, IC was believed to be a relatively uncommon problem, but now it is thought to affect up to 12 percent of women.
Though women can be reluctant to talk about these sensitive issues, it is important to share details with and seek treatment from a certified urologist. Not doing so not only diminishes your quality of life, but can put you at serious risk.