Why Are Older Adults More Likely to Have Recurrent UTIs?

Why Are Older Adults More Likely to Have Recurrent UTIs?

Our bodies have a series of organs that are designed to dispose of the things we don’t need, from shedding skin to removing waste from the things we eat and drink. Your urinary tract is a system of organs (kidneys, ureter, urethra, and bladder) that filter and eliminate waste through your urine. It separates the toxins from the nutrients in the food and drink you intake and filters your blood, using your kidneys to do the separating, then moving the waste in your urine through your ureter and into your bladder until it exits your body through your urethra and genitals.

This system can be affected by obstructions and infections. A urinary tract infection is a common illness that can affect people in any age group for a variety of reasons. However, this condition is more common in older adults (over 10% of women 65 and older report this infection annually, and it only increases with age); in this population it often shows with some different symptoms and can lead to bigger problems if left untreated. Let’s look at the reasons UTIs are such a problem for the elderly by examining the causes and signs unique to that group, factors that affect it, and how it can be treated.

If you're a resident of the Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, or South Florida area and you’re struggling with UTIs, Drs. Craig Herman and Steven Kester and the medical staff at the Urology Center of Florida can help you find relief.

Causes and symptoms of UTIs in the elderly

Regardless of age, the e coli bacteria is the most common cause (affecting 90% of sufferers), and it’s present in your stool and your large intestine. Another way seniors can get this infection is through a catheter, as other organisms may be present that can lead to a UTI. This also plays a role in why UTIs are among the most common conditions in long term care facilities.

Symptoms of UTIs in seniors are often different, and it’s generally believed that this is due to the blood vessels that supply the brain being weaker in seniors. This leads to a unique range of signs, such as restlessness, hallucination, social withdrawal, confusion and agitation. This is in addition to the other symptoms everyone deals with, like increased urination, pain, burning and other discomfort while peeing, abdominal or pelvic pressure, fever, lower abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Factors that increase the risk

Older adults have a higher risk of UTIs for many reasons, such as a history of these infections, dementia, a prolapsed bladder, and bladder or bowel incontinence. Conditions more common in elderly adults, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes can lead to urinary retention and lack of bladder control, which can affect your chances of getting UTIs. Older people that wear incontinence briefs are also at a higher risk of this infection if they are not changed regularly enough.

The risk factors can also vary between the sexes. Women are already more likely to get UTIs due to anatomical differences, but in older women estrogen deficiency can lead to an overgrowth of the E. coli bacteria, raising the risk of infection. In older men, kidney stones, bladder stones,enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH), and bacterial prostatitis can increase the chances of infection.

Treatment options

Treatment for UTIs in older adults varies depending on the symptoms. Regular signs are generally managed by antibiotics or antifungal medications, but if confusion, agitation, and other related symptoms are involved, antipsychotics are used. Advanced cases of UTIs, which can lead to things like kidney damage and sepsis, can be treated with an intravenous antibiotic regimen.

To help reduce the risk of UTIs so you don’t have to deal with them, drink plenty of water, reduce or avoid caffeine and alcohol, change incontinence pads as soon as they get wet, and wipe properly when finished in the bathroom (front to back).

UTIs may be more common in elderly adults, but you don’t have to live with them. If you need treatment for this or other infections affecting your urinary tract, make an appointment with Drs. Herman or Kester and the team at the Urology Center of Florida today. Call us or book an appointment online.

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