Many Americans suffer from an occasional urinary tract infection. But when your loved one is over 65, this somewhat common event becomes more dangerous. And it may be harder to recognize than you think.
What should you know about seniors and urinary tract infections (UTIs)? Here’s a brief guide.
What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
If the urinary tract fails to completely empty or isn’t emptied often enough, bacteria may grow within the bladder, urethra, or kidneys. This bacteria often enters the body from the outside and travels upward, where it may grow and eventually cause an infection.
Most patients with a UTI notice symptoms including trouble or pain when urinating, burning sensations, and cloudy or discolored urine. Kidney infections often come with lower back pain and fever as well.
These symptoms are fairly easily recognized, and they can generally be treated with a round of antibiotics. Complicated UTIs may require a second round of antibiotics, and your doctor will ensure that the infection is eradicated.
What Is Different in Seniors?
Seniors are often at heightened risk for getting UTIs for a variety of reasons. First, their immune system may be compromised or strained, leaving the older person more apt to get all sorts of infections. Secondly, many seniors don’t drink enough water and become easily dehydrated. Dehydration may cause bacteria to grow because the bladder isn’t being emptied.
In addition to a higher propensity for infections, seniors may experience very different symptoms of a UTI than their younger counterparts. These symptoms appear neurological and are often harder to recognize. They include confusion, memory loss, inability to hold onto a conversation, dizziness, and falls.
Usually, these neurological symptoms accompany the more traditional symptoms. But if they don’t come with the urinary symptoms that are easier to recognize, diagnosing a UTI can be particularly challenging. The first time a loved one experiences neurological symptoms can be very unsettling and cause delays in getting the right diagnosis.
What Should You Do?
You can protect your older family member or friend from UTIs in two primary ways. The first is to recognize the potential range of symptoms and get prompt treatment if you suspect any infections.
Sudden changes in the person’s cognition, memory, and balance could all indicate a UTI, and you should take them to the doctor or urgent care office immediately. Doctors can conduct a simple test in the office to look for the telltale markers of a UTI.
The second form of protection is avoiding UTIs in general. Make sure that the senior drinks plenty of fluids all day long and experiences regular urination. You may even need to remind them to urinate on a regular basis. Reinforce the need for good bathroom hygiene — including wiping from front to back after using the bathroom — so as to avoid introducing more bacteria into the urethra.
You can also try a few home prevention steps. Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice is a common home prevention measure, although its actual efficacy hasn’t been established to many experts’ satisfaction. Probiotics and vitamin C may also be helpful in killing off bacteria before it becomes a problem.
Where Should You Start?
If you think someone you love may be suffering from a UTI, don’t hesitate to see a doctor right away. And if the patient suffers from a higher rate of UTIs, consult with your doctor about ways they can help you prevent infections from taking hold.
At PDQ Urgent Care & More, we are here to help you keep your family and yourself healthy and happy. Call today to make an appointment or sign into our online queue for services.