Don't Let UTIs Take You by Surprise: How to Protect Yourself as You AgeSkip to content

UTIs and the Increased Risk for Older Adult

Published: Dec 30, 2022. Last Updated: Jan 9, 2023.

As we age, our bodies become more susceptible to a variety of health issues, including urinary tract infections (UTIs). These infections can be uncomfortable, and if left untreated, can lead to more serious health problems. But the good news is, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from UTIs as you age.

But first, let's delve into the various factors that increase the likelihood of developing this infection

Risk Factors of UTI

Decline in immune function that occurs with aging

As you get older, your immune system may not be as effective at fighting off bacteria that can cause UTIs and other infections. This means you may be more at risk for these types of health problems as you age. It's important to take care of your immune system by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep to help keep your body strong and able to defend itself against illness.

Changes in urinary anatomy and function

As the muscles and tissues of the urinary system can become weaker with age, it may become more challenging to completely empty your bladder. This can lead to bacteria build-up in the urinary system, potentially causing a UTI.

Increased use of medications that can increase the risk of UTIs

You may be at risk for UTIs if you take certain medications that impact your bladder or urinary system. These drugs can include diuretics, which may cause you to urinate more often, and medications that loosen the muscles in your bladder, potentially causing incomplete emptying.

Symptoms of UTI

It’s not easy to spot UTI just by looking, so you have to know the classic or common symptoms of UTI to be able to detect one:

  • Frequent and urgent need to urinate, pain or burning during urination, and abdominal or pelvic discomfort. Some people may also experience cloudy or bloody urine, a strong smell to their urine, and/or fever and chills.

The symptoms of a UTI may be different or more subtle to seniors than in younger adults. For example, older adults may not experience the same level of discomfort or pain during urination. They may also have changes in their urinary function, such as incontinence or the inability to fully empty their bladder, which can make it more difficult to recognize a UTI.

  • Confusion or delirium, falls, and changes in behavior. UTIs can lead to sepsis, a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, especially in older adults who may have weaker immune systems. Keep an eye on your health and don't hesitate to seek medical help if you think you might have a UTI.

Prevention and Treatment of UTI

If you're an older adult or caring for an older adult, it's especially important to practice good hygiene to prevent UTIs. This includes wiping front to back after using the bathroom, drinking plenty of fluids, and urinating regularly. If you have prescribed antibiotics, make sure to take them exactly as directed and finish the entire course of treatment to fully eliminate the infection.

Additionally, there are a few other tactics that can help prevent UTIs in older adults. These include:

  • Urinating frequently: It is important to empty your bladder fully and frequently to help prevent bacteria from building up in the urinary system.

  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing: Tight clothing can constrict the urinary system and lead to bacteria buildup.

  • Avoiding holding in urine: It is important to go to the bathroom when you feel the urge to urinate, rather than holding it in.

  • Practicing good genital hygiene: Women should avoid using douches, sprays, or other products on the genital area. Men should ensure they are properly cleaning the tip of the penis after urinating.

Treatment Options

If you do develop a UTI, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid complications. The most common treatment for UTIs is antibiotics, which can help kill the bacteria causing the infection. Your healthcare provider will determine the best type and length of antibiotic treatment based on the severity of the infection and your specific situation.

There are also a few natural remedies that may help ease UTI symptoms and speed up the recovery process. Some options to consider include:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids: Staying hydrated can help flush bacteria out of the urinary system and reduce UTI symptoms and combat dehydration as well .
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication: Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce discomfort associated with UTIs.
  • Using a heating pad or warm compress: Applying heat to the abdominal area can help alleviate UTI-related discomfort.
  • Taking cranberry supplements: Cranberries contain compounds that may help prevent bacteria from attaching to the urinary system.

Note that natural remedies should not be used as a replacement for antibiotics, but rather as a supplement to treatment. If you are considering using natural remedies to treat a UTI, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider first to determine the appropriate course of treatment.

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About the Author

JM Guiang

Writer & Researcher

Elder Guide LLC

Inspired by fresh ideas and wise words, JM Guiang, Communications degree-holder, and Elder Guide writer, finds profound joy in writing quality content and insightful articles that redefine seniors' perspective on aging with grace and confidence.