Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections affecting the kidneys, bladder, or urethra. They are more commonly occurring in women. While much of the information regarding UTIs is centered around younger women, UTIs can also commonly affect seniors. With age, your susceptibility to UTIs can increase, for both men and women. Unfortunately, an untreated UTI can be dangerous for seniors, or even fatal. Below, we will discuss the dangers of UTIs in the elderly.
Why are the Elderly More Susceptible to UTIs?
With age, the muscles of the urinary system weaken. Over time, this can cause urine retention and even incontinence. Weaker bladder muscles and pelvic floor make it harder to go to the bathroom. Additionally, dulled nerves make the brain less sensitive to feelings of a full bladder. As urine stays in the urinary tract, you have a higher chance of bacterial growth. This can spread and cause infection.
Other Factors that Contribute to Senior UTIs
Additionally, there are other factors that can contribute to UTIs in seniors. Firstly, those with diabetes and kidney issues are more likely to develop a UTI. Those that use catheters are also more prone to infection. Older women may have UTIs more than men because of changes to estrogen production post-menopause. This can create imbalances of bacteria in the vagina, leading to a greater chance of infection.
Uncircumcised men and those with enlarged prostates are more prone to urinary tract infections. This comes as a result of stagnant urine caught in the bladder or urethra.
Signs and Symptoms
There are a number of signs that may help you identify if your elderly loved one is suffering from a UTI. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms can be confused with symptoms of chronic conditions, or as a result of aging. This is part of why it can be hard for elderly individuals with UTIs to receive help. Common UTI symptoms can include:
- Frequent or urgent need to use the bathroom
- Feelings that the bladder is not completely empty after urinating
- Lower abdominal/pelvic pain
- Burning while urinating
- Changes in behavior
- Changes in appetite
Additionally, there are symptoms that may indicate a more serious infection. These can include:
- Worsening abdominal/pelvic pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Dementia Patients and UTI Symptoms
Dementia patients are often at a greater risk for severe UTIs. This is because it can be harder for them to communicate their symptoms. In many cases, an individual with dementia can act more erratically with a UTI. They may experience confusion or even a state of delirium in some cases. If you notice them acting more erratic or confused, consider having their doctor test for UTIs.
What are Asymptomatic UTIs?
An Asymptomatic UTI is an infection that has no discernable symptoms. These are generally found in routine testing. Your loved one’s doctor may prescribe antibiotics. However, in many cases, treatment of an Asymptomatic UTI may not be necessary.
How Doctors Treat Urinary Tract Infections
Generally, a doctor will prescribe a narrow-spectrum antibiotic (such as amoxicillin) for a UTI. However, for more severe cases, hospital admittance and IV antibiotics may be necessary. This can be especially true for elderly individuals with weakened or compromised immune systems.
UTI Prevention in Seniors
There are a number of ways you can help your loved one reduce their risk of developing a UTI. First, hydrate. Drinking 2-3 liters of water daily can be important. When they feel the need to use the bathroom, they should go. They should also try to empty their bladder fully. Loose, breathable undergarments can help. If your loved one wears adult diapers, ensure that they are changed frequently. Wiping front to back can reduce infection risk. For postmenopausal women, vaginal estrogen creams can help balance their microbiomes. Lastly, cranberry juice has been shown to reduce symptoms and prevent UTIs.
Consult with Their Doctor
Your loved one’s doctor can be an important resource in treating or preventing a UTI. If your loved one is prone to UTIs, discuss with their doctor how to reduce their risk factors.
Safe Harbor Healthcare Services does not provide medical, healthcare, or financial advice via articles. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for medical advice.
Safe Harbor Healthcare Services has been providing excellent home care on Staten Island since 1967. Our services help the elderly and disabled live safely and independently; while giving their families the peace of mind they need. For more information contact us by clicking here, or by calling (718)-979-6900.