Urinary Tract Infections – Serious Issue

Nelson-Maldonado-MDUrinary Tract Infections (UT I) can cause serious serious health problems. A urinary tract infection happens when bacteria in the bladder or kidney multiplies in the urine. Left untreated, a urinary tract infection can become something more serious than merely a set of uncomfortable symptoms. UT Is can lead to acute or chronic kidney infections, which could permanently damage the kidneys and even lead to kidney failure. UT Is are also a leading cause of sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection of the bloodstream.

The population most likely to experience UT Is is the elderly. Elderly people are more vulnerable to UT Is due to the suppressed immune system that comes with age and certain age-related conditions.

Younger people tend to empty the bladder completely upon urination, which helps to keep bacteria from accumulating within the bladder.   But elderly men and women experience a weakening of the muscles of the bladder, which leads to more urine being retained in the bladder, poor bladder emptying and incontinence, which lead to UT Is.

Symptoms of UTIs:

  • Urine that appears cloudy
  • Bloody urine
  • Strong or foul-smelling urine odor
  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Pressure in the lower pelvis
  • Low – grade fever
  • Night sweats, shaking, or chills

Elderly people with serious urinary tract infection don’t exhibit the hallmark sign of fever because their immune system is unable to mount a response to infection due to the effects of aging. In fact, elders often don’t exhibit any of the common symptoms- or don’t express them to their caregivers.

UTIs in the elderly are often mistaken as the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s according because symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Other behavioral changes
  • Poor motor skills and dizziness
  • Falling

Sometimes, these are the only symptoms of a UT I that showed up in the elderly-no pain, no fever, no other typical symptoms of a UT I.

The following conditions make the elderly more suceptible for UTIs:

  • Diabetes
  • Urinary retention (unable to empty the bladder, even if your loved
  • one has just used the bathroom)
  • Use of a urinary catheter
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Immobility (for example, those who must lie in bed for an extended period of time)
  • Surgery of any area around the bladder
  • Kidney stones

People with incontinence are more at risk of UTIs because of the close contact that adult briefs have with their skin, which can reintroduce bacteria into the bladder. Some recommendations to help reduce this risk include the following:

  • Change the briefs frequently
  • Encourage front-to-back cleansing
  • Keep the genital area clean
  • Set reminders/timers for those who are memory-impaired to try to use the bathroom instead of the adult brief.

Other ways to reduce the chance of UTIs:

  • Drink plenty of fluids ( 2 to 4 quarts each day).
  • Drink cranberry juice or use cranberry tablets, but NOT if your elder has personal or family history of kidney stones
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, because these can irritate the bladder
  • Do not use douches or use feminine hygiene products
  • Always wipe from front to back (for women)
  • Wear cotton-cloth underwear, and change them least once a day

If you think your elderly loved one has a urinary tract infection, see your doctor immediately.


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