Urinary Tract Infection In The Elderly

What is UTI?

Urinary Tract Infection or UTI is a bacterial infection of the urinary system. Your urine which is a byproduct of kidneys doesn’t normally contain bacteria. However, bacteria can get into your urinary system from some external source, leading to inflammation and infections like UTI.

If left untreated can lead to serious and life threatening conditions in the elderly such as causing permanent damage to the kidneys.

Who is more prone to it?

Generally saying, there is no age limit for it. From children to the older anyone can acquire this infection. But this is one of the most common type of infection in the elderly, affecting 10% of men and 20% of women above the age 65.

It is so because with age the immunity decreases which simply doesn’t fight off with the bacteria, thus allowing it to spread throughout your urinary tract.

Not only this, women are more prone to it as compared to men because the urethra in females is shorter and closer to anus where E.coli bacteria are common.

Why the elderly are more prone to it?

The first and the most common reason is their inability of emptying their bladders completely which allows room for bacteria to develop there since it allows the urine to stay there for extended periods of time.

In women this inability occurs as a result of weakens bladder muscles that ultimately prevents the bladder from emptying completely.

On the other hand in men it is because of the engagement of prostrate gland that blocks the flow of urine and thus leading to the half emptied bladder.

Other Risk factors for a UTI

They may include;

  • Dementia
  • Catheter use
  • Kidney stones
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Bladder incontinence
  • Suppressed immune system

But What Is A Urinary Tract?

It comprises of the following:

  • The kidneys (the filters of the body) 
  • The ureters ( thin tubes carrying urine from kidneys to the bladder)
  • The bladder ( a sac like organ for the storage of urine before it leaves the body)
  • The urethras ( the tube that carries urines from bladder to outside the body)

Symptoms Of A UTI In The Elderly

The symptoms are typical in all who get this infection but with a little exception in the older. It may get hard to differentiate between chronic urinary problems and a UTI in seniors because of the slower or suppressed immune response this masking the infection and so it goes unnoticed for a long period of time in the elderly.

Common symptoms are as follow:

  • Foul smell in urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pelvic pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Painful urination with a burning sensation

Other sever symptoms may include;

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Inability to do simple tasks

How Is It Diagnosed In Older People?

A simple urine test aka as urinalysis confirms the presence of infection in the older adults if they experience any of the above mentioned symptoms.

Doctors may also recommend a urine culture to help identify the type of bacteria so to treat it accordingly.

One thing that you should know is that older adults often have bacteria in their urine and cause no symptoms. It is called an asymptomatic bacteria and the good thing is that, it resolves of its own.

Treatment for a UTI in Older Adults

Antibiotics is the first approach to treat the infection. And if the infection is of milder form it clears up in only a few days with antibiotics.

But depending on the severity of the infection, the age and health of the affected – the treatment may take a long time with a longer course of antibiotics. In cases even more severe the patient needs to be hospitalised to receive IV antibiotics.

However if your infection does not respond to treatment your doctor may recommend you the following tests to examine your urinary tract;

  • Ultrasound
  • Cystoscopy
  • CT Scan

How To Prevent The Risk Of Developing A UTI In The Elderly?

It can be reduced by following a few easy guidelines;

  • Drinking plenty of water (at least 6-7 glasses of water a day for the seniors)
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol
  • Changing clothes frequently
  • Urinating as the you feel the urge to urinate