Intro to Women’s Urology
As urology involves medical treatment of the urinary tract, it is not just for men. We also treat urological issues in women. While male and female sexual anatomy differs, internal organs related to urination are similar or identical in men and women. While the list below is by no means exhaustive, here are some of the most common urological issues found in women. We treat all of these conditions and if any issue requires a different specialist, we can provide first-rate referrals.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
One of the most common issues we see in our office, especially in women, are urinary tract infections. A UTI occurs when bacteria has infected the urinary tract, the group of organs that process urine. Typically, this happens in the bladder or the urethra, and causes symptoms like pain or a burning sensation while urinating, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, pink or red urine, a frequent or intense urge to urinate, the ability to pass only small amounts of urine, pain in the pelvis or abdomen, and sometimes nausea and vomiting.
This type of infection can happen in men, women, or children. They can be caused by many ways of bacteria infiltrating the urinary tract, such as through sexual activity, bacteria spread from the large intestine through stool particles, or while using a catheter. We treat UTIs by confirming the issue with a urine sample and then addressing it in a variety of ways, which may include antibiotics or home treatment.
We often treat patients, especially older women, with frequent urinary tract infections. You can read more about this condition on our Recurrent Urinary Tract Infection page.
The urethra in women is shorter than in men, and because of its placement, women are more prone to bladder infections. Other common bladder issues include incontinence, or loss of bladder control. Women make up 85% of urinary incontinence cases in the United States, and just under half of all women 65 and over suffer from this issue.
Incontinence can be caused by the weakening of the muscles in the bladder, which can happen during pregnancy, after childbirth, or with menopause. Other contributing factors include excess weight, surgery, or constipation. We treat urinary incontinence starting with an exam and determining any tests that need to be run. We then map out a treatment plan to address the issue and monitor your progress closely.
For more in-depth information on this issue, take a look at our Incontinence in Women page.
Other Bladder Issues
Other issues relating to the bladder include an overactive bladder, which involves a frequent urge to urinate, or interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, which can cause recurring bouts of painful urination and a feeling of pressure in the pelvic area.
Bladder prolapse occurs most often in older women and happens with the weakening of muscles in the pelvic region. Without the strength of these muscles, the bladder can fall out of position, or prolapse.
Voiding dysfunction happens in the lower urinary tract and can also manifest as a strong or frequent urge to urinate, but patients often feel like they are unable to empty the bladder. This issue occurs when the bladder and urethra are not coordinating the passage of urine correctly.
Pelvic Organ Issues
Other common reasons that female patients come to see us relate to the pelvic region. Just like prolapse in the bladder, pelvic organ prolapse involves the vagina or uterus shifting or falling out of place due to weakened vaginal muscles and ligaments. This often presents as pain or pressure in the pelvic region, or painful intercourse. Sometimes, leaking of urine or stool can accompany this condition. It happens more often in older women and affects about 3% of the U.S. female population. We can treat this issue with a pessary — a small device internally inserted to support the prolapsed organ — or through various other means.
Pelvic floor dysfunction involves the inability to pass a healthy bowel, with symptoms manifesting as constipation, stool leakage, or straining when attempting to defecate. This condition occurs when the pelvic floor muscles cannot coordinate or relax in order to form a stool.
Urethral diverticulum (UD) most often happens to women between the ages of 40 and 70, and occurs when a small pouch forms next to the urethra and begins to fill with urine. This condition can be accompanied by painful intercourse, ongoing urinary tract infections, urinary leaking, and the formation of a mass in the vagina. If left untreated, UD can cause weakening in the urethral wall. This issue can be confirmed with imaging methods and treated with surgery.
Kidney stones are most common in men, but they do also form in women. Kidney stones occur when deposits of salts and minerals form into hard lumps within the kidney. If the stone is not able to be passed through the urethra and causes swelling, the patient can often be in severe pain. Kidney stones can typically be treated with some simple steps if caught early enough, though occasionally surgery is necessary.
Hydronephrosis happens when the kidney swells with urine and is unable to empty properly into the bladder. This occurs when there is a blockage somewhere in the urinary tract. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) also involves a swelling of the kidneys, but is caused by noncancerous cysts that band together and continue to enlarge within the kidney. This syndrome can result in kidney stones or kidney failure.
As experts in female urology, we know which tests to run, which treatments to prescribe, and which tips to give our patients regarding any necessary lifestyle changes. If you are displaying any symptoms of urological dysfunction, the key is not to wait. The sooner you can get an examination with the doctor, the quicker you will be able to address the problem before it becomes more serious.