Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common type of bacterial infection in older adults and the elderly. Just like their younger counterparts, post-menopausal women are affected more than men due to their anatomy. However, a simple UTI can cause seniors to not only get them more frequently, but also experience different and more severe symptoms. On top of that, when left untreated, UTIs in the elderly can cause serious problems, including permanent kidney damage and sepsis, making it potentially life-threatening. Something to look forward to.
Symptoms of UTIs in the Elderly
Like anyone with a UTI, older adults may experience typical UTI symptoms, like burning while urinating or frequent urge, but they may also experience different or more severe symptoms, including agitation, mental confusion, and sudden changes in behavior. They also may not notice if they have a mild infection as urinary incontinence or frequency are pretty common in seniors regularly.
Common symptoms of a UTI include:
- Burning, painful sensation with urination
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Bladder pressure
- Blood in the urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
Symptoms of a more severe UTI may include:
- Night sweats or chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the lower abdomen or back
Symptoms of UTIs in elderly may also include behavioral changes which can be key signs of a UTI in elderly adults. These include:
- Confusion or delirium
- Sudden urinary incontinence
- Inability to perform common daily tasks, such as eating, or getting dressed
- Frequent falls
- Agitation or aggression
Why do UTIs cause confusion in the elderly?
Sounds odd, but the human body is a complex machine. Basically, there are two schools of thought as to the reason behavioral changes or confusion may occur. First is that the immune system of an older adult reacts differently to an infection than younger people, one of the perks of aging. A UTI places stress on the body and fighting it off can cause an older adult to become confused or agitated. The other theory is that the blood vessels that supply the brain are weaker and may be more likely to allow the infection to pass to the nervous system. Either way, these symptoms are important to know and recognize for a speedy diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
Why does your risk for UTIs increase with age?
Again, there are a few reasons that the elderly are more susceptible to UTIs. In both men and women over 65 the risk becomes greater because they tend to have more difficulties fully emptying their bladder. This causes bacteria to develop in the urinary system and turn into a UTI. In older men, this often happens because of a common condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate gland. The enlarged prostate blocks the flow of urine and prevents the bladder from fully emptying. As women age, the bladder muscles weaken and prevent the bladder from emptying completely.
Post-menopausal women also produce lower amounts of estrogen that creates an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina and cause a UTI. As estrogen production falls in, UTIs can occur more frequently.
Other risk factors to consider for UTIs in older adults include:
- Using a catheter
- Having kidney stones
- Having a suppressed immune system
- Exposure to different bacteria in the hospital or care facility
- Poor hygiene by elderly adults or their caregivers
How are UTIs treated in older adults?
UTIs can be treated the same for all ages – with antibiotics. However, depending on the person’s age, health, and severity of the infection, it may take several weeks and a longer course of antibiotics. In more severe cases, seniors may need to be hospitalized to receive IV antibiotics. Look for the signs for early detection in treating a UTI in the elderly so that it doesn’t get more severe.
Of course, the best way to treat a UTI is to prevent them. Here are some tips to prevent UTIs, which include the obvious, drinking more water, wiping front to back, and peeing after sex. Yes, older adults have sex too. Those prone to recurrent UTIs, may want to consult with their doctor on taking supplements to keep them at bay. Evidence shows that D-mannose and cranberry powder help prevent bacteria from sticking to your vaginal parts. Checkable Urinary Tract Balance provides all of the nutrients needed to keep UTIs away.