Urinary Tract Infection in the Elderly
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common and easy to treat. The classic symptoms of a UTI are burning pain and frequent urination.
The symptoms can be different in adults, however. Their symptoms may take the form of behavioral changes.
Understanding the urinary tract may explain why this happens.
Understanding Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Before we discuss UTIs further, you should know what parts of the body are being discussed. The urinary tract is the drainage system of the body. This is how the body removes urine (which is made up of waste and extra fluid).
When your urinary tract is working correctly, all the parts of the tract are working together. The parts that make up the urinary tract are your two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder, and a urethra. It also includes two sets of muscles that work together as a sphincter—they are what stop you from constantly peeing between bathroom trips.
UTIs are very common ailments. They typically occur within 1 out of 5 women at one point in their lives. Although UTIs tend to be more common in women, it is possible for men, older adults, and children to get UTIs as well.
Doctors will typically treat UTIs with antibiotics. It’s nothing invasive or painful.
Urinary tract infections are caused by microorganisms that enter the urethra and bladder. When these small bacteria enter your body, it causes inflammation and infection. If your immune system doesn’t fight these bacteria off, they can travel throughout your body and enter your kidneys.
We don’t want this to happen! There are ways to prevent UTIs, but keep in mind that they are more frequent in older adults. The risk of UTIs increases with age.
If you’re worried you might have a UTI, there are some common symptoms you should keep an eye out for.
Symptoms of A Urinary Tract Infection In Older Adults
Especially when it comes to UTIs in older adults, it’s good to have an idea about what symptoms to keep an eye out for. As mentioned above, there are classic symptoms to keep an eye out for.
These symptoms can be included, but are not limited to urethral burning when urinating, pelvic pain, the urgent need to urinate all the time, having a fever, having chills, and if your odor has an unusual or abnormal odor.
These are all possibilities and common manifestations of UTIs, so make sure to keep them in mind when you start self-diagnosing yourself and your health.
However, the situation changes when it comes time to discuss the elderly.
Common UTI Symptoms In The Elderly
Especially when it comes to older adults, pay close attention to any of the following symptoms. They can prove that the adult has a UTI, and if that’s the case, it’s best to treat it as quickly as possible.
Incontinence is described as the inability to control when you need to urinate or defecate. Although it’s possible that being unable to control your bowel movements might be indicative of another problem, it’s possible it’s a sign of a UTI.
If you have this symptom and it persists, make sure to get it checked by your doctor or primary care physician.
If you suddenly find yourself feeling frustrated or dissatisfied and there’s not a clear cause, you might want to check and see if you have a UTI. Although sudden behavioral changes might indicate a different illness, make sure you check that it’s not a UTI as well.
It’s common to be tired as life continues on around you. However, if you find that you’re constantly feeling lethargic, but there doesn’t seem to be a reason why you’re suddenly so tired, it might be time to check and see if your urinary tract is working correctly.
Falling is one of the worst things that can possibly happen to an older person. When you fall, you increase your chance of breaking bones and straining muscles. As you get older, it becomes harder and harder to brush these sorts of injuries off.
Because these injuries can be so dangerous for older people, make sure you’re trying to keep away potential issues that might cause you to fall.
One such issue is UTIs. Keeping your bowel health as healthy as possible will also serve to remove a potential cause of falling as you age. If you start to have trouble keeping your balance and you start falling down a lot, check with your doctor.
When you are older and you get a UTI, one of the symptoms can show as urinary retention. Urinary retention is when your bladder doesn’t empty all the way when you go to the bathroom. Your bladder might only empty partially . . . or it might not empty at all.
This can cause problems because your urine is filled with bacteria and other forms of waste. That is why you urinate. It’s your body’s way of removing these things from your body. However, if your body is refusing to urinate, it means that all of these unhealthy chemicals just sit in your body, which can cause further infections.
If you suddenly find it hard to move around, or your motor skills seem to have suddenly deteriorated, try to look into if you have a UTI. UTIs can cause changes to your movement, so if this happens to you, pay attention. This can be an indicator that something is wrong with your urinary tract.
One of the final symptoms to keep an eye out for is if you suddenly don’t feel like eating anymore. Everyone goes through periods of hunger and not wanting to eat, but if a lack of appetite persists for no reason, you may have a UTI.
Even if it seems like a minor symptom, it’s best to get it checked. Although UTIs are very common, they aren’t something to play around with or underestimate.
Taking charge of your health and your body when it comes to UTIs is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, especially if you’re an adult.
Now, you may be wondering . . . what happens if you don’t take care of your UTI?
Symptoms If The Infection Spreads To The Kidneys
When it comes to UTIs, there are a few things that might happen if you don’t take care of your UTI. The first worry that will crop up if you leave your UTI untreated is that the bacteria will travel to your kidneys.
If the infection makes it to your kidneys, the symptoms and the stakes increase exponentially. Once again, if you find yourself with a UTI, try to get it treated immediately. Don’t let it get to this point.
However, if it does get to this point, please keep an eye out for the following symptoms. None of these symptoms are natural or normal, so if you find that you have them, please consult with a doctor.
The symptoms to keep in mind are:
● A fever
● Flushed skin
● Back pain
Again, there are potentially many other illnesses that might be to blame for these symptoms, but if there’s a possibility that a UTI is to blame, please get it checked. It will only go from bad to worse from here, so it’s best to keep your health in mind before you find your health completely at risk.
Health is harder to keep track of as you get older, but that just means it’s more important to make it a priority. And, especially when it comes to UTIs, there are a few preexisting conditions that might increase your risk of them as you get older.
What Puts Adults At Risk For Getting UTIs
The following is a non-exhaustive list of possible issues that might increase the chance of UTIs in adults.
● A History of UTIs
● Catheter Use
● Bladder Incontinence
● Bowel Incontinence
● A Prolapsed Bladder
● A Bladder Stone
● Kidney Stones
● An Enlarged Prostate
● Bacterial Prostatitis (a chronic infection of the prostate)
If you have a history of any of these things on the list, keep an eye out in case you end up with a UTI. Luckily, it’s not guaranteed that these preexisting conditions will cause UTIs, but they all increase the risk.
So, what should you do if you think you have a UTI?
How To Confirm You Have A UTI
When it comes to confirming a UTI, your doctor is the only person who can 100% confirm it. They will typically perform a urinalysis to make sure, and then they will prescribe antibiotics to treat it going forward.
Although it’s possible for you to assume you have a UTI, it’s definitely best to get medical confirmation before you start trying to treat it.
Once you know that you have a UTI, you can work on fixing it. Read on to learn about common treatments for UTIs.
How To Treat A UTI
When it comes to treating UTIs in the elderly, the types of antibiotics a doctor might prescribe are ones such as amoxicillin or nitrofurantoin.
If you don’t want to get to this point, definitely try the following things to keep those bacteria away from your urinary tract!
How To Prevent Urinary Tract Infections In Older Adults
None of these symptoms are fun, and treating them can be even less so. If you want to increase your chances of preventing getting a UTI, try keeping the following things in mind.
● Drinking Plenty Of Fluids
● Changing incontinence briefs frequently
● Avoiding bladder irritants, such as caffeine and alcohol
● Keeping the genital area clean by wiping front to back after going to the bathroom
● Not using douches
● Urinating as soon as the urge hits
● Using vaginal estrogen
These are all things that will help to prevent UTIs in older adults, but what if you do end up with a UTI and you don’t realize it?
Read on to learn what might happen if you leave a UTI to go untreated.
What If A UTI Goes Untreated?
Although UTIs are a common ailment, you shouldn’t let them fester. It doesn’t matter what age you are, if you leave UTIs untreated, it can have long spread and drastic consequences.
As mentioned above, if you leave UTIs untreated, the bacteria that causes UTIs can reach your kidney. If this happens and it remains untreated, this can lead to sepsis.
Sepsis is a life-threatening complication. It occurs when your body tries to fight off an infection, and in doing so, it triggers body-wide inflammation.
This body-wide inflammation can trigger additional issues, such as damage to multiple organ systems and death.