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Urinary Tract Infections Facts - Seniors

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

urinary-tract-infections-facts-seniors

Urinary Tract Infection Statistics

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common infection in women. A large study was done in Sweden and other parts of Europe that concluded 1 in every 5 women worldwide will experience a UTI sometime in their lifetime. In the U.S. it was determined that 25-40% of women between the ages of 20-40 have had a UTI.

UTIs are rare in men, and only affect 3% of men worldwide, however, there is a greater risk in elderly men.

The number of UTIs tend to decrease in middle age, then rise for women over 65. The rate of UTIs increases to almost 30% in women over the age of 85.

Urinary Tract Infection Types and Symptoms

The urethra is the tube that allows urine to leave the body, and it may become infected by spreading bacteria from the anus to the urethra. Sexually transmitted infections may be the cause of a UNI, particularly in women.

An infection of the bladder (cystitis) is often due to Escherichia coli (E. coli), and this bacteria is found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Cystitis may cause:

  • Frequent, painful urination
  • Lower abdominal discomfort
  • Feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder.
  • Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored — a sign of blood in the urine
  • Strong-smelling urine

If this infection is left untreated it will reach the kidneys, and this becomes more serious. These symptoms include:

  • Back pain or pain in your side
  • High fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shaking and chills
Multiple white cells seen in the urine of a person with a urinary tract infection using microscopy.

Multiple white cells seen in the urine of a person with a urinary tract infection using microscopy.

Elderly Population and UTIs

Urinary tract infections (UTI) can cause serious health problems in the elderly population. They may be often overlooked in the elderly or mistaken for other conditions.

Sudden and severe confusion (delirium) can occur for an older person who is frail. Their risk for hospitalization and death increases. Confusion alone does not mean a person has a UTI. The confusion is due to changes in the immune system with age, and the person may have no other symptoms of a UTI.

Asymptomatic elderly people with elevated urinary bacteria do not always need antibiotics as they may need to just increase their fluid intake. This often occurs in patients who live in nursing facilities.

“Doctors should not treat urinary bacteria with antibiotics unless there are multiple other signs or symptoms of a UTI. This can encourage antibiotic resistance and make future UTIs harder to treat,” says Dr. Lathia from the Cleveland Clinic. Obviously, symptomatic patients need to be treated,

Senior citizens have slightly different symptoms as well. A positive urine culture, along with two of these symptoms should receive treatment.

  • “Fever over 100.5 °F
  • Worsening urinary frequency or urgency
  • Sudden pain with urination
  • Tenderness in the lower abdomen, above the pubic bone”

Senior citizens have some specific problems that will cause a UTI, such as:

  • Bladder obstructions
  • Constipation
  • A suppressed immune system
  • People that must use a catheter to urinate

UTIs in the Elderly- What You Need to Know

UTI Treatments

Amoxicillin is an oral antibiotic and is usually the first treatment given for cystitis in older adults. Other common medications for simple UTI treatment include:

  • Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, others)
  • Fosfomycin (Monurol)
  • Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Macrobid)
  • Cephalexin (Keflex)
  • Ceftriaxone

Special care must be given to those patients with kidney disease and those on blood pressure medications due to the side effects, as they may be serious in older adults.

D-mannose

D-mannose is a simple sugar that is just one molecule. It is being given in the form of a pill to some patients in nursing homes to prevent UTIs. There is ongoing research with some positive evidence that D-mannose is effective in preventing UTIs.

D-mannose occurs naturally in your body, and it is found in the following plants.

  • Cranberries and cranberry juice
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Green Beans
urinary-tract-infections-facts-seniors

Risk Factors

A female’s anatomy provides a shorter distance for bacteria to travel through the urethra and reach the bladder. Women who are sexually active tend to have more UTIs, especially when there are different sexual partners.

Some birth control methods increase the risk of UTIs, like the use of diaphragms and also in women using spermicidal agents. Women who reach menopause have less estrogen in their bodies, which causes changes to the urinary tract that makes them more susceptible to infections.

Preventing UTIs

There are some ways to prevent UTIs and they include;

  1. Adults should be drinking 5-8 glasses of water or fluid daily with limited alcohol. It is important for people to monitor the liquid intake of those people who are less mobile or confused.
  2. Anyone with dementia should be reminded to empty their bladders regularly. Holding urine in the bladder for long periods of time leads to UTIs.
  3. Always empty your bladder after sexual intercourse.
  4. Avoid constipation as it can prevent the bladder from completely emptying.
  5. Maintaining good hygiene is important.

Urinary Tract Infections

End Conclusions

A UTI is a very uncomfortable experience. It is important to drink an adequate amount of fluid. Cranberry juice may prevent UTIs, and there are ongoing studies to determine its effectiveness. Phenazopyridine HCL is OTC medication that will relieve the burning and some of the discomfort of a UTI, but it does not treat the bacteria or cause of the infection.

If you are caring for an elderly person it is important to know the symptoms as confusion is fairly common with a UTI. Make sure they drink enough liquid, and that they are kept clean. A hot water bottle or heating pad on the abdomen may relieve some of the discomfort. If they are incontinent they should wear incontinent pads or diapers.The amount of ongoing research is encouraging.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 25, 2021:

Hi Vidya,

A UTI can be quite serious for anyone if left untreated. Thank you so much for your comments.

VIDYA D SAGAR on September 24, 2021:

Informative article about a common occurrence in seniors. Quite dangerous if left untreated. Thanks for sharing Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2021:

Fran, I hope you have a good weekend also.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on September 23, 2021:

Pamela, appreciate your kind words. Keeping my brain active to ward off dementia!! Have a great weekend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2021:

Hi Fran,

Yes, this is a common problems that can get so serious. I know you have had more than your share of medical problems also.

Thank you for your comments. I hope you are doing well.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on September 23, 2021:

Pamela, great info on a common problem that can lead to dangerous situations. Important it is caught early. Thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 22, 2021:

Hi Vidya,

Yes, UTIs are common in seniors for a variety of reasons. It does need to be treated.

I appreciate your comments.

Blessings!

VIDYA D SAGAR on September 22, 2021:

A very informative and useful article dear Pamela. Seniors often face this problem. If left untreated it can be risky. Thanks for sharing this helpful article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 22, 2021:

Hi MG,

I'm glad you found this article to be informative.

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 21, 2021:

This is a nice informative article about an ailment that is pretty common. Thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

I Mar,

I'm glad you found the article to be informative.

I appreciate your comments. I pray you stay healthy. Many blessings.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

Hi Miebakagh,

I am glad you found the article informative and I hope it gives some new information to your wife. Thank you is much for reading and commenting.

Amara from Pakistan on September 21, 2021:

Hi Pamela, its an informative read. Thanks for sharing. God bless you.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 21, 2021:

Pamela, thanks for such an informative article. I've passed it to my wife.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

Hi Linda,

Your comments are so true. My daughter-in-laws mother is in her eighties, and they watch her when she gets confused as it is always a UTI. You certainly don't want the infection to spread to the kidneys as that can be quite serious.

I appreciate your comments, as always. Stay safe and healthy!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

Hi Olusegun,

Thank you for reading and commenting.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

JC,

I am glad you liked the article. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 21, 2021:

Pamela, it's important that people/caregivers recognize the subtle signs of this problem in the elderly. Often they can't express to us what is going on. When left untreated a UTI can be very bad indeed. This is a well-written article.

OLUSEGUN from NIGERIA on September 21, 2021:

Thanks for sharing this Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I am glad you are avoiding this problem. I am glad you have the information as being informed is good.

I appreciate your comments, as always. I was not able to comment on your mailbag yesterday. Maybe I can find it in my frred today. Very frustrating! Hope you are havig a good week.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 21, 2021:

So far so good in avoiding this. Let's hope I continue to be so lucky. Thanks for the information, my friend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

I really wanted people to know the difference in symptoms in the elderly. I am happy you found the article informative.

Thank you for your comments. I hope you are having a good week too. Alway stay safe!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 21, 2021:

Hi Pamela,

Your medical information is always welcomed and informative. It is especially good to watch for symptoms in the elderly and those in nursing homes. That information is especially good to know so that people are aware of the different symptoms that the elderly may exhibit.

Enjoy the balance of your week, and stay safe!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

Prompt treatment is important so the infections does not reach the kidneys. I am glad you found this article helpful.

Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you are having a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

I am glad you found this article to be informative. I really wanted everyone to understand the difference between young women and the elderly.

I am glad you learned a lot from the article. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments.

Blessings and love for you also.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

Hi Citrangada,

The elderly are of concern because they do not present with the typical symptoms like a young person.

I am glad you found this article informative and I do hope it helps people understand the symptoms.

I appreciate your comments. I hope you have a good day as well.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

Hi Liz,

I know of one lady and one man who have presented with confusion, then diagnosed with a UTI. I am glad you found this ariicle informative.

I appreciate your comments. I hope you are. having a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 21, 2021:

Hi Umesh,

I am glad you found this article to have useful information. Thank you so much for your comments.

JC Scull from Gainesville, Florida on September 21, 2021:

Excellent article Pamela.

Rosina S Khan on September 21, 2021:

UTI's when they happen, it seems the right actions need to be taken as delay may deteriorate the condition. It is good to know Cranberry juice helps. This was a very important and helpful article, Pamela. Thank you for your contribution, as always.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on September 21, 2021:

Pamela, Thanks a lot for writing this informative article about UTI. You have explained everything in great detail. As always very helpful and informative article. It is a very common infection and uncomfortable as well but still many people are not well aware of its symptoms, treatments and prevention. You have covered everything so well. Drinking water helps a lot. I wasn’t aware of that the hot water bottle or heating pad on the abdomen can relieve the discomfort. I have learned a lot more about it from your article today. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. Take care and stay healthy!

Blessings and Love as always

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 21, 2021:

An important and informative article, about the UTI infections. It is quite common in young women, but I think, it’s more troublesome in the elderly people. I agree with you, that some elderly people become antibiotic resistant, if it’s administered too frequently to them. I have seen it happen to many of my elderly relatives.

You have provided valuable information about the symptoms and treatment of the UT infections.

Thank you for sharing. Have a good day!

Liz Westwood from UK on September 21, 2021:

This is a very informative and interesting article. We recently knew of an elderly relative hospitalized as a result of an untreated UTI.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 21, 2021:

This is a very detailed and exhaustive article on UTI and how to prevent it. This is a very useful medical information. Thanks Pamela, for sharing it with us.

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