Collagen level can impact risk of incontinence and prolapse in women

03/19/04

Decreased collagen levels might make some women more susceptible to pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence, according to a new study by physicians at Temple University School of Medicine and Temple University Hospital. The study, "Collagen content of nonsupport tissue in pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence," appears in a recent issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

According to study author Oz Harmanli, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, "We often blame prolapse or incontinence on childbirth, aging or chronic straining. But such is not the experience for all women. Some older women enjoy strong pelvic support in their 80s, while some women in their 30s suffer from weak pelvic floors, regardless of other factors.

"Our study examined whether the connective tissue, specifically collagen, influenced risk of pelvic floor disorders," said Harmanli. Collagen is the substance that holds all of our bodily tissues together. Other studies have looked at collagen levels in already-prolapsed tissue. The Temple study looked at tissue from the cervix, the cone-shaped opening to the uterus, which is not a support structure and therefore not affected by prolapse.

"We found that women with prolapse and incontinence had decreased amounts of collagen in the cervix, regardless of all other factors. This supports the theory that there's an intrinsic factor that can contribute to these problems, and everything else, such as childbirth and obesity, is additive," said Harmanli.

The next step is a larger-scale study to determine whether these findings hold true in a larger group of women. "What we learn could improve our ability to predict which women are at higher risk for these problems and help them take preventive measures," said Harmanli.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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