Urinary Tract Infections

Suppressed immune system in seniors can lead to UTIs

A urinary tract infection is a bacterial infection that can occur anywhere along the urinary tract, which includes kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra.

Elderly people are more vulnerable to UTI’s because their overall susceptibility to all infections is higher due to their suppressed immune system. In the elderly, the bladder muscles have become weaker which causes them to visit the bathroom more frequently.

Symptoms of a UTI include:

  • urine that appears cloudy
  • bloody urine
  • strong or foul smelling urine
  • frequent need to urinate
  • pain or burning with urination
  • pressure in the lower pelvis

Some of the symptoms of a urinary tract infection can be confused with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia in seniors. As the bacteria spreads to the bloodstream, it can cause confusion and other cognitive difficulties in seniors. An elderly person who may be experiencing signs of mental difficulties should also be monitored for a urinary tract infection.

Although UTI’s are most prevalent among younger, sexually active women, that disparity vanishes among the elderly population. UTIs among seniors occur with the same frequency in men and women, partly because of the incidence of enlarged prostate glands in men, which can lead to obstruction of the urethra.

Once a urinary tract infection is diagnosed, the most common treatment is antibiotics, it usually takes between 7-10 days to clear up.

There are some ways you can prevent a urinary tract infection:

  • Not drinking fluids that tend to irritate the bladder such as alcohol and caffeine.
  • Drinking cranberry juice
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Keeping the genital area clean

There is the possibility of having reoccurring urinary tract infections. If this is the case try drinking 2 to 3 litres of fluids daily and always emptying your bladder before bedtime, avoiding bubble baths may also help. If it persists a continuous therapy with low dose antibiotics is usually required.

You can learn more about the symptoms and treatment of urinary tract infections in the elderly by visiting the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse.