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Estrogen deficiency may raise UTI risk

Category: Menopause/Peri-Menopausal Diagnosis

Post-menopausal women are at a higher risk of contracting urinary tract infections - but a new study shows that estrogen therapy may help to prevent infections. Research from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden revealed that the hormone causes the body to produce more antibiotics and may enable cells in the urinary tract to fight back against UTIs.

The research team treated a group of post-menopausal women with estrogen for two weeks before examining the subjects' urinary tract cells. They discovered that the hormone therapy created a sort of protective field around the wall of the bladder, which made it more difficult for bacteria to break through and cause an infection.

"During menopause, women have low levels of estrogen, and therefore also low levels of antimicrobial peptides as well as a damaged lining of the lumen in the urinary tract," said Annelie Brauner, lead author of the study. "This will give the bacteria opportunity to reach the underlying tissue, where they can hide and stay until they are triggered to cause a new infection."

Brauner went on to note that by treating women who have gone through menopause with estrogen, the researchers were able to strengthen the body's defense against infections.

Lab tests and estrogen
Previous lab tests have revealed that vaginal estrogen can be used as a preventative measure for post-menopausal women with chronic UTIs. According to a study done by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, estrogen therapy may be a viable alternative to antibiotics. While antibiotics are a convenient means of curing UTIs, resistance to these medications has been building, and for patients with recurring UTIs, antibiotics may not always be the best option.

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