Estrogen Use Linked To Bladder Problems

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Women who are in their post menopausal stage who take estrogen for several years are more likely to experience urinary incontinence than those who are taking the said hormone replacement drug for a shorter period of time or not at all, according to a new study.

Out of 167 women who were surveyed in the early 1990s and another in 2004, those women who have been taking estrogen for five years or more were said to be three to four times more at likely to report bladder control problems during the 2004 follow up survey, as compared to those women who had not taken estrogen or those who took it for not more than five years.

“Looking at a patient’s history of estrogen use may be an important factor in (gauging) their risk for developing urinary incontinence,” shared Dr. Gina Northington who happens to be the author of the study and who is also a  specialist in urogynecology at Emory University in Atlanta. Some women take in estrogen after menopause in order to lessen the symptoms of the condition like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

In the study published in the journal Menopause, about 167 women who are post menopausal filled out questionnaires last 1993. In the said questionnaire, they stated whether they had never used estrogen, used it for less than five years or used it for more than five years.

After eleven years, out of the women who reported to not have any urinary incontinence and difficulties during the first survey, about 47 reported having a new case of urinary incontinence. Also, more than 31 of these women said that their incontinence made it hard for them to carry out everyday tasks like shopping, attending social events, visiting their friends and performing exercises.

Out of the 47 women who reported new bladder control problems, seven reported to have used estrogen for more than five years. This compares to the seven out of 120 women without any incontinence who used estrogen for that long.

Dr. Northington stressed that the study had a few weaknesses too. “We only asked women if they took hormones containing estrogen. We didn’t measure the level of estrogen and we didn’t ask about progesterone.” However, the reason why taking estrogen would affect bladder control is still not clearly understood.

“Some studies have suggested hormones such as estrogen may influence nerves that control the bladder,” noted Dr. Leslie Rickey, a urogynecologist who specializes in bladder problems at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Urinary problems increase with age,” shared Dr. Rickey, who was not part of the study. “We’re not sure if it’s due to the aging process or estrogen levels or the combination of the two.”

“It’s still not known which individual women on estrogen therapy are at risk for developing bladder control problems,” she told Reuters Health. Northington, however, doesn’t suggest stopping estrogen. On the other hand, what she urges is for women to talk with their physicians before starting therapy.




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