What are elderly urinary tract infection (UTI) symptoms? Are they similar or different from symptoms experienced by younger people?
You might ask these questions if you suspect that you have a UTI – or if you’re concerned that an elderly at home needs medical care for UTI.
Let’s go over some elderly UTI symptoms you need to watch out for when taking care of your seniors.
Elderly Symptoms of UTI
Urinary infections in older adults are different from those of younger people.
Aside from the typical signs of a UTI, older adults tend to have more severe symptoms.
That’s why it’s difficult to pinpoint such an infection among the elderly if you’re only aware of the common signs of UTI.
Moreover, signs and symptoms of UTIs among older adults can be confused with other health conditions.
These physical and behavioral indications can also be elderly symptoms of UTI:
- Dizziness and vomiting
- Poor motor coordination
Older people have a weak immune system than younger individuals due to aging health. Hence, the symptoms among them could be different.
These UTI symptoms are signs that you’re immune system is trying to fight off foreign invaders in your body:
- bloody, cloudy, or dark-colored urine
- frequent urination, chills, and fever
- tenderness on the lower back and abdomen
- burning pain when urinating
Elderly Urinary Tract Infection
UTI affects the URINARY SYSTEM, including the urethra, ureters, bladder, and kidney.
Typically, UTI is a kind of bacterial infection. However, this could also be a type of fungal infection. And rarely, it could be a viral infection.
Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacteria found in the stool, is one of the types of bacteria that causes UTIs.
Infection in the lower urinary tract is a common infection that affects the urethra and bladder. Consequently, this causes urethra and bladder infection.
Upper UTI, on the other hand, affects the kidneys. This condition is potentially life-threatening because the infection may spread throughout the bloodstream.
UTI in older adults is not entirely new because it is a common type of infection among elderlies. However, UTIs among older adults can still be a dangerous health condition.
UTIs among elderlies are difficult to detect, given their accompanying symptoms.
Older adults are also more susceptible to UTIs. It is caused by several risk factors, including poor hygiene, certain health conditions, and catheter use.
Urinary retention is a major cause of UTIs among elderlies. Existing health-related conditions can be the culprit behind this.
Prostatic hypertrophy, a condition that causes the enlargement of the prostate gland, can lead to urine blockage.
This impedes the urine from flowing and stops the bladder from completely draining.
Postmenopausal women produce less vaginal estrogen. With this, elderly women produce less good bacteria that naturally clean the vagina.
The imbalance between good and bad bacteria can eventually cause an infection.
Urinary incontinence is another condition that leads to urinary tract infections. A prolapsed bladder might cause this and weakened pelvic floor and bladder muscles.
Kidney stones, kidney infections, and diabetes can also cause difficulty in urination.
In addition, having a prior UTI in your medical history also increases the chances of acquiring urinary tract infections.
Older adults are already weak, so they have less capacity to take care of themselves.
Urine can overstay due to poor hygiene, inviting bacteria to breed and propagate.
Such bacteria spread and eventually enters the urinary tract, causing an infection.
Using a Catheter
If you have undergone surgery or other medical procedures, you might have been required to use a urinary catheter.
This is a tube inserted in your urethra to help drain your bladder.
In some cases, a catheter can lead to a UTI.
Bacteria and fungi can penetrate the urinary system through the tube. Hence, causing a UTI in older adults.
Elderly UTI Treatment
It is really difficult to detect a urinary tract infection in older adults in just one glance. It is important to seek help from health and wellness professionals.
Experts can perform urine tests for the patient. And in some cases, they will perform a urine culture to identify what bacteria is causing the infection.
After running a series of tests, medical experts can provide a treatment plan to remedy your condition.
If a bacteria is causing the disease, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat UTIs. In cases where fungi are the cause, an antifungal medication can be prescribed instead.
However, if the patient is already experiencing hallucinations and confusion, an antipsychotic drug may be included in the treatment.
Sometimes, doctors would prescribe a shorter treatment plan. This is possible to happen in cases of uncomplicated urinary tract infections.
A doctor usually won’t recommend a treatment plan.
This particularly happens among patients with a condition called asymptomatic bacteriuria, which typically goes away on its own.
This is diagnosed when the urine culture shows no bacteria seen in the patient’s urine sample.
Elderly UTI Prevention
Prevention is indeed better than cure. And as much as possible, we want to prevent UTIs before they cause our loved ones or us harm.
Here are the many ways to prevent UTIs in older adults.
- Increase fluid intake. Staying hydrated by drinking lots of water can help in frequent urination. This helps flush out the bacteria causing UTIs.
- Gulp some cranberry juice. This common home remedy is believed to prevent bacteria from staying on the urethral wall.
- Discard the caffeine and alcohol from your diet. Avoiding such bladder irritants can help decrease the risk of acquiring a UTI.
- Practice proper hygiene. Wiping from front to back after urinating and frequently changing incontinence pads and underwear can prevent bacteria from propagating.
- Get professional help. If older adults need additional help, proper nursing homes can help. The elderly can get long-term care and maintain proper hygiene in a nursing home resident.
Elderly UTI Confusion
Confusion is one of the severe symptoms of a UTI that elderlies experience.
It is believed that when an illness spreads in the body, our immune system shifts to fight mode.
Such a response may lead to inflammation with the released hormones and chemicals.
Among older adults, more stress hormones are produced. This affects brain functioning, leading to confusion and other behavioral changes.
Elderlies suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can experience dementia, temporarily worse than usual, with a UTI.
Elderly UTI Antibiotics
Prescribed antibiotics are the most common treatment doctors use for patients with UTIs.
Manageable cases can be treated with the right type of antibiotic.
However, severe types of UTIs may require longer treatment. Doctors would recommend hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics.
But, you need to remember to follow the doctor’s prescription when taking antibiotics to avoid antibiotic resistance.
Elderly Kidney Infection
An untreated UTI can be dangerous. It will cause the infection spreads to the upper tract.
This, in turn, damages the kidneys and causes the development of serious kidney diseases.
This will also cause the infection to spread throughout the bloodstream. And the patient will develop sepsis.
If left untreated, such a condition will lead to a septic shock and death.
Why Do Elderly Get UTI?
Elderlies have a weak immune system compared to younger adults. Hence, they are less capable of fighting off foreign invaders in their bodies.
Older adults also have less capacity to care for themselves and maintain proper hygiene.
Most of them also have chronic illnesses that lead to urinary incontinence. At the same time, some health conditions can cause urine blockage.
Elderlies using catheters are also prone to UTIs, given that bacteria can penetrate the body through the tube.
Why Do Elderly Patients Get Confused With UTI?
When elderly patients are infected, their bodies release hormones and chemicals.
These substances develop inflammation. And among elderlies, their brain functioning is mostly affected.
Hence, this leads to confusion and other psychological reactions in elderly patients.
Why Do Elderly Get Frequent UTI?
Frequent UTIs are sometimes caused by dehydration.
That’s why elderlies must drink a lot of liquids. This helps with frequent urination to flush bacteria in the urethra.
Poor hygiene also leads to the propagation of bacteria. Hence, you must wipe from front to back after urinating.
It is also important to change pads and underwear often to ensure that no urine residue will stay for a long time.
How Do Elderly Act When They Have a UTI?
Aside from the common symptoms of a UTI, elders may experience the following physical and behavioral changes:
- Dizziness and vomiting
- Poor motor coordination
What Are Symptoms of UTI in Elderly Females?
The symptoms of UTIs in elderly females are similar to the common symptoms of UTIs in general. These include fever, chills, nausea, etc.
However, keep in mind that women have a higher chance of contracting UTIs than males, up to 30 times to be exact.
What Happens If a UTI Goes Untreated in Elderly?
If left untreated, UTIs will lead to more serious conditions. It will progress to a more severe illness. And it will already affect the cognition of the patient.
Complications such as kidney damage as well as sepsis can also develop.
UTI may be a common illness among the elderly, but the severity and treatment are on a case-to-case basis.
Antibiotics is the obvious solution for most symptoms, but if your loved ones start experiencing more severe UTI, consult your doctor right away.
REMEMBER: Immediate treatment is always the key to preventing and curing UTIs among the elderly.