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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common types of infections experienced by older adults. For most people, a lower urinary tract infection is a minor condition. However, infections are more serious for seniors due to a variety of reasons.

What are the dangers of UTIs in seniors?

Seniors may experience the same symptoms of UTIs as younger people, including:

  • Frequent urination
  • Urinary urgency
  • Low urine output
  • Low-grade fever
  • Abdominal pain and pressure

However, sometimes these classic symptoms may be absent, making the diagnosis more difficult.

In addition, older adults may also develop confusion while suffering from an infection. UTI-related confusion may mimic the signs of dementia, such as:

  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty remembering facts
  • Agitation
  • Withdrawal from people and activities

UTI-related confusion may make it difficult for an older adult to complete their daily living tasks and increase their risk of falls, which could cause serious injury.

In addition, untreated urinary tract infections can develop into serious kidney infections, putting seniors at risk of organ damage and potentially fatal systemic infections like sepsis. Signs of kidney infection include:

  • High fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the back and side
  • Chills

Why are seniors more at risk of UTIs?

Seniors are vulnerable to urinary tract infections for many reasons, including:

  • Decreased urine flow: An enlarged prostate or kidney stones may block the flow of urine, making it easier for bacteria to grow in the urinary tract.
  • Decreased mobility: Having a difficult time traveling to and from the bathroom may cause older adults to hold their urine, increasing the risk of bacterial growth. In addition, a lack of flexibility may make it harder for seniors to wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom, making it more likely that bacteria from the anus will travel to the urethra.
  • Incontinence: Bacteria found in stool can cause urinary tract infections.
  • Catheters: Older adults who regularly use catheters are more likely to develop infections.
  • Weakened immune system: As you age, your immune system becomes less efficient at fighting the bacteria that cause UTIs.
  • Hormonal changes: The drop in estrogen that occurs in women after menopause can make infections more likely to occur.

How are UTIs treated in seniors?

Fortunately, most seniors can recover from a urinary tract infection at home with an antibiotic. Older women who frequently develop UTIs may be given an estrogen cream to apply regularly to lower the likelihood of repeat infections. If a UTI turns into a kidney infection, hospitalization may be necessary.

How Forward helps older adults obtain UTI treatment

For many older adults, a visit to the doctor isn’t all that simple. Mobility issues and a lack of transportation may make it hard to visit the office and pick up prescriptions. That’s why Forward allows you to schedule virtual visits with your primary care provider. Then, the medication your doctor prescribes comes right to your door. We provide one-on-one, personalized care that will include exploring potential causes of UTIs. By identifying your risk factors, we can give you advice on how to modify your lifestyle and your habits to make urinary tract infections less likely to reoccur.

No long waits. No surprise bills. No copays — ever.

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