Information on Urinary Tract Infections and Seniors

Anyone who has experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI) knows how painful they are.  Think about how horrible it would be if you were unable to recognize or communicate your symptoms to anyone.  Family members and caregivers play an important role in recognizing symptoms and seeking medical attention.  Amanda Smith, M.D., medical director at the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute at the University of South Florida suggests that caregivers be on the lookout for these six symptoms:

  • The need to go to the bathroom frequently or urgently
  • Complaints of discomfort while urinating
  • Frequently touching themselves
  • Cloudy, dark, or foul-smelling urine
  • A new onset of incontinence
  • Any sudden change in mental status such as lethargy, hallucinations, restlessness or yelling when it was not present before

Dr. Smith also warns caregivers to seek medical attention as soon as possible if their loved one becomes difficult to wake up, since this can be a sign of delirium, which is considered a medical emergency. (1)

Most have always heard of UTIs and bladder infections as being 2 separate things.  The following definition from the University of Berkely California and the table from the Mayo clinic below helps to explain their correlation. "Bladder infection, also called “UTI” or cystitis is a bacterial infection of the urinary bladder." It occurs when bacteria contaminates the urethral opening (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body) and travels upwards into the bladder. Normally, bacteria does not live in the bladder or urethra. When a bladder infection occurs, common symptoms include burning with urination, frequency and urgency of urination and sometimes blood in the urine. If the infection travels upward beyond the bladder into the kidneys, it is called a kidney infection or “pyelonephritis”. A kidney infection can cause urinary symptoms, but also fever, back pain and vomiting." (2)

The symptoms above from Dr. Smith help in detecting UTI's in others.  The below table explains how each type of UTI may result in more-specific signs and symptoms, depending on which part of your urinary tract is infected; helpful in self detection and understanding discussions with your doctor.

Part of urinary tract affected Signs and symptoms
Kidneys (acute pyelonephritis) Upper back and side (flank) pain
High fever
Shaking and chills
Bladder (cystitis) Pelvic pressure
Lower abdomen discomfort
Frequent, painful urination
Blood in urine
Urethra (urethritis) Burning with urination