Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common infection that affects the bladder and kidneys. While UTIs can occur at any age, women and older adults are most susceptible. As we age, our muscles weaken, including the bladder and pelvic floor – causing urine retention or incontinence. Anytime urine stays in the urinary tract, and bacteria can multiply and cause an infection that can spread.
According to the National Library of Medicine, more than 10% of women over 65 report having a UTI yearly, increasing to almost 30% for those over 85. Older adults can be more likely to get UTIs due to other medical conditions and their mental health.
“Particularly in those 70 and older, confusion and disorientation can be a sign of a UTI,” said Dr. Jason Smith, Internal Medicine physician at Complete Health Greystone. “Individuals that age also tend to have other health conditions that can cause a UTI, such as diabetes, using a catheter, or certain medications.”
Common symptoms of a UTI in older adults are:
- A change in urinary habits, such as increased frequency or urgency
- Tenderness in the pelvis or lower back
- Fever, nausea, and fatigue
- Pain or burning during urination
- Dark or cloudy urine
- The feeling of a full bladder
- Confusion and disorientation
Millions of people visit the ER for a UTI each year, but many are unnecessary. “Your primary care provider should be your first stop when you suspect a UTI,” says Dr. Smith. “We can get you in quickly and prescribe medication to treat the infection. Catching the infection early on is critical to avoiding serious complications.”
Dr. Smith recommends these four lifestyle changes to avoid getting a urinary tract infection:
- Don’t ignore the symptoms – Ignoring symptoms can cause a kidney infection or lead to sepsis. Communicate with your primary care provider if you have symptoms, and they will guide you on what to do next.
- Drink water – It’s recommended that men drink 13 cups daily and women 9 cups daily.
- Urinate frequently – Empty your bladder often throughout the day and as quickly as possible when you have the urge to go.
- Dress Right – Wear loose, breathable clothes. If an adult undergarment is worn for urinary leakage, it should be changed frequently.
Call your primary care provider if you suspect you have a UTI. To find a Complete Health location closest to you, visit https://completehealth.com/home/location-search/.