Common Female Urologic Problems

19.02.2021

Many women will experience some sort of urology issue during their lifetime, the main troubles being the infamous urinary tract infections (UTIs), incontinence and pelvic pain. Although urologic problems can occur in both men and women, conditions affecting the urinary tract and pelvis are much more common in women, especially following pregnancy, childbirth and sexual intercourse. This is largely because the urinary tract is much closer to their genital area than in men.

We have found that many women still feel embarrassed to talk about these personal issues, but we are here to tell you that you do not need to learn to live with these conditions. There is plenty of advice, medication and care to help treat your condition and improve your quality of life.

What is female urology?

Female urology looks at the health, function and disorders of a woman’s pelvic floor and urinary system (otherwise known as the renal system or urinary tract). The organs that make up the urinary system include the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra and renal pelvis.

The function of the urinary system is to produce, store and eliminate urine as a fluid waste, which is excreted by the kidneys. The kidneys create urine by filtering the extra water, urea and waste from the blood, in order to keep a proper balance of water and chemicals in the body. The urine then travels through two thin tubes called the ureters to the bladder, where it will then leave the body through the urethra. The urinary system is particularly susceptible to infections in all associated organs, and issues with functions such as blockages.

Most common urologic issues in women

We have listed several of the most common conditions that can affect the female urinary system below. If you are experiencing any of the following, or have noticed any uncomfortable symptoms then it is a good idea to see a GP as soon as possible.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Many women suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs). They occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract, causing infection and inflammation in different parts of the urinary system, including the urethra (urethritis), bladder (cystitis), urethra (urethritis), and sometimes the kidneys (kidney infection). 50% of women will develop this condition at least once during their life.

Symptoms of UTIs include:

  • Frequent urges to urinate
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Milky, cloudy or red/brown urine.
  • Fever or chills
  • Back pain
  • Cramps
  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Feeling weary or unwell

A urinary tract infection is not usually serious, however it can cause serious medical problems if the infection spreads to your kidneys or into your blood. This is why it is important to properly diagnose and treat a UTI as soon as possible. Your doctor can diagnose UTIs by lab analysis of your urine, ultrasounds, a CT scan or an MRI scan, and sometimes a cystoscopy.

UTIs are usually treated with antibiotics.

Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence (UI) is a common bladder control problem which causes an unintentional leakage of urine. It can range from a small occasional leak when you cough, to not being able to hold any urine. This involuntary loss of bladder control occurs in women around twice as often as in men due to the structure of the female urinary tract, childbirth and menopause.

The three main types of female incontinence include:

  • Urge incontinence – being unable to reach the toilet in time when you have a sudden need to urinate.
  • Stress incontinence – caused by pressure on your bladder when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise.
  • Overflow incontinence – when you are unable to totally empty your bladder and constantly dribble urine.

Speak to your GP if you experience urinary incontinence so they can diagnose the type of UI you have. As well as a physical examination, you may be asked to undergo further tests so the GP can confirm or rule out things that may be causing incontinence.

Incontinence may be treated with medications, pessary insertion, pelvic floor exercises, electrical stimulation, bladder training, biofeedback and sometimes incontinence surgery.

Pelvic floor prolapse

Pelvic floor prolapse is another urological condition which occurs when the pelvic organs such as the uterus, rectum, bladder, urethra, small bowel or vagina fall out of their normal position. This is a result of when the muscles, ligaments and skin surrounding a woman’s vagina become weak or break. Typically, pelvic organ prolapses affect older women who have had children.

Symptoms of pelvic floor prolapse:

  • Pelvic pressure and discomfort
  • Feeling of heaviness around tummy and genitals
  • Feeling a bulge or lump in or coming out of the vagina
  • Sexual discomfort
  • Problems urinating or defecating

Some women do not realise they have a pelvic floor prolapse as they may not experience any symptoms at all. In these cases, the prolapse is found during an internal examination carried out for another reason, such as during a cervical screening.

If you have noticed any symptoms of a prolapse, you should book an appointment with your GP. They may ask you to undergo an internal pelvic examination, as well as other tests.

A pelvic organ prolapse may not need serious medical treatment if it is mild and not bothering you. If it is more severe and affects your everyday life, there are treatment options available, such as hormone treatment, vaginal pessaries, exercises and surgery.

Kidney stones

Kidney stones are created in the kidneys when waste products in your blood form crystal like structures made of minerals and salts, and build up over time to form a hard stone. Small kidney stones are able to pass through your body undetected when urinating, however large kidney stones can become lodged and block part of your urinary system. It can be very painful, and may cause other issues such as UTIs and even kidney damage.

Symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Severe, sharp pain in the side and back, below the ribs
  • Pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin area
  • Waves of pain that fluctuate in intensity
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Pink, red or brown urine
  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Fever or chills

Doctors can diagnose kidney stones through methods such as an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an intravenous pyelography (IVP). The treatment of kidney stones will depend on their location, the size, and some other medical factors.

How we can help

If you think you are showing symptoms of one of the above urological issues mentioned above, or would like to get checked out as soon as possible by a GP, then we can help. LycaHealth offers specialist urologists who can help manage, diagnose and treat any number of urological ailments in both males and females. Book an appointment with a private GP today.

 

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