Urinary Tract Infections in Seniors Need Prompt Diagnosis and Treatment

Anchorage Assited Living Community

The chances are good that a person will experience a urinary tract infection, often called “UTI,” at some time in their lives. The discomfort and inconvenience that result can have a negative impact on the person’s daily activities. However, when older individuals get a UTI, it can be a much more serious event. A UTI in a senior can exhibit much different symptoms and involve serious complications. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help seniors get back to their daily lives faster and with less distress.

Preventing Urinary Tract Infections in Seniors

Healthy habits can help seniors to avoid the effects of urinary tract infections. Healthy bladder habits include:

  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water during the day.
  • Go to the bathroom frequently during the day, even setting a schedule for urination so you don’t wait too long can be helpful.
  • Avoid consuming compounds that irritate the bladder, such as alcohol and caffeine.
  • Wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom.
  • Change undergarments frequently.
  • For women, talk to your doctor about vaginal estrogen to avoid frequent UTIs.
  • Drinking cranberry juice can be helpful for preventing UTI in some individuals.

What Is A UTI?

The urinary system is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Bacteria or fungus can enter the body from the outside, and can reproduce in any part of the urinary tract. Because of the differences in anatomy, women are more prone to getting urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections generally affect the bladder and can be very uncomfortable. The infection can migrate to other part of the urinary system. These infections can cause permanent kidney damage or sepsis in older individuals.

Causes of UTIs

Bacteria or fungal agents can enter the urinary system from unclean clothing or other materials. Improper hygiene can allow bacteria to enter the system. Sexual activity can also allow bacteria to enter the urinary system. Having diarrhea can sometimes lead to bacteria entering the urinary system and causing an infection. Older individuals may have poor immune system function, which can also increase their vulnerability to infection. Medical conditions or procedures can also lead to UTIs.

Classic Symptoms of UTI

The urge to urinate frequently is one of the classic symptoms of a UTI. Pain or burning may accompany urination. The urine may have a strong odor or look darker or murky. There may be pelvic pain or cramping. The individual may have a fever or chills. Nausea or vomiting may occur. The person may have some bladder incontinence from the infection.

Seniors May Experience Different Symptoms With A UTI

In older individuals a urinary tract infection can produce more diverse symptoms. The person may not suspect they have a UTI because the classic symptoms of frequent or burning urination aren’t present. However, mental confusion and restlessness can occur. They may experience dizziness or balance problems. Motor skills may decrease. The person may become depressed or withdrawn. Any sudden, unusual mood changes or motor problems in an older person should signal an investigation into whether a UTI is the likely cause.

Testing Can Determine If Infection is Present

Urinary tract infections are detected through testing of a urine sample from the patient. Your doctor can provide an in-office test, but these tests are not always accurate. The doctor may decide to do a urine culture to determine the precise infectious agent, so that the proper treatment can be provided.

Treatment of Urinary Tract Infections in Seniors

When caught in the early stages, treatment of urinary tract infections is simple. The physician will prescribe and appropriate antibiotic or anti-fungal agent to eliminate the infection. The patient may need to take the medication for an extended period to prevent repeated infections. If the infection is severe, hospitalization may be necessary to provide intravenous medications and monitoring of the individual’s condition.

The bottom line is that older individuals may be more susceptible to urinary tract infections and may experience more diverse symptoms and more serious health consequences. It’s important to understand how differently a simple UTI can be in someone in their senior years, to ensure the condition is diagnosed and treated quickly and to avoid more serious complications that can occur.



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