Q Can the menopause affect the bladder?
AThe menopause is triggered by falling oestrogen levels. The most common symptoms are hot flushes, sweats and vaginal dryness, but many tissues are affected. The vagina and vulva, womb, ovaries and bladder are particularly involved, and an estimated four out of five women may be affected by genitourinary syndrome of the menopause (GSM). The vulva and vagina may look pale and thinned and feel dry, irritated or sore during everyday activities, and especially during lovemaking. GSM can also make you pass urine more urgently or frequently, or be linked to incontinence or recurrent urinary infections. Your GP can check your urine, refer you for tests if necessary and advise which would be suitable treatments for you.
GSM can be specifically targeted using prescribed vaginal oestrogen (a short course of pessaries or cream, followed by regular ‘top-ups’) or slow-release vaginal rings. However, you may find hormone replacement therapy tablets, patches or implants better if you have other menopausal symptoms, too. You could also try a vaginal moisturiser such as Replens MD for relief, or one of a wide range of personal lubricants for lovemaking (visit the contraception counter at your pharmacy). Ask advice before mixing products.