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If you feel burning when you urinate, you may quickly recognize the problem as a urinary tract infection, or UTI. But when youre older, a UTI can be more difficult to diagnose. It may even cause confusion and other symptoms of dementia. At the same time, an older adult with Alzheimers disease or dementia may miss the signs of infection, or be unable to tell you about them.
UTIs are a common bladder condition, usually caused by bacteria. They occur more often in women, and become more frequent as we age. Most infections are not serious and can be cured quickly. But some UTIs can lead to severe, even life-threatening, problems, making it critical to catch them early.
If an older adult is disoriented for no clear reason, ask a health care provider to test for a UTI.
Signs Of A Kidney Infection To Know And When To Go To The Hospital
Youre probably not constantly on the lookout for signs of a kidney infection. But getting a urinary tract infection can open you up to also getting an infection in one or both kidneys, which means this is an illness that should be on your radar. Yep, it’s an unfortunate truth: A urinary tract infection can lead to a kidney infection, which is medically known as pyelonephritis and can be incredibly serious. So if youre experiencing symptoms of a UTI and thinking, Eh, I can wait a few more days to get those antibiotics, think again. Heres what you need to know about the signs of a kidney infection, its underlying causes, why its so important to get treatment as soon as you can, and more.
Ways To Prevent Kidney Disease
The best way to prevent kidney infection is by reducing your risk of developing urinary tract infections. The easiest way to do this is by:
- Staying HydratedDrink plenty of fluids, especially water. It can help you to remove bacteria from your body through regular urination.
- Urinate Whenever There is an UrgeUrinate as soon as you need to. Avoiding, controlling, or delaying urination make you more susceptible to urinary bladder and urinary tract infections.
- Maintain Hygiene During and After Sexual IntercourseUrinate after sexual intercourse. Empting the bladder after intercourse helps clear bacteria from the urethra, reducing your chances of infection.
- Eat Plenty of FiberConstipation increases your risk of developing a kidney infection. Eating a fiber-rich diet helps you to regulate your bowel movement, allowing you to prevent skin lesions around anus and bacterial infection.
- Get Your Kidneys Screened for InfectionsIf you are suffering from recurring urinary tract infections, kidney stones, enlarged prostate or a disease that could weaken your immune system, it is important to speak to your primary care physician and get your kidney function test done at regular intervals. It can help you screen your kidneys for any potential infection that could lead to a serious kidney disease.
Call EPIC Health at or request an online appointment with our healthcare experts for kidney infection detection and prevention. We can help you live happy, healthy, and better!
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Results Of Individual Studies
Among the included studies, the rate of confusion in patients with suspected UTI was most commonly reported followed by the rate of suspected UTI in patients with confusion . Some studies reported the rate of confusion in patients with bacteriuria and one study reported the rate of bacteriuria in patients with confusion. The majority of studies reported confusion as delirium , followed by a few reporting confusion , altered mental state , and mental status changes , with one study reporting both delirium and altered mental status . Twelve studies analysed the correlation between suspected UTI or bacteriuria and confusion .
Should Catheters Be Used
Catheters historically have been thought of as a way to respond to problems with incontinence, but their use is not recommended unless absolutely medically necessary. The insertion of a catheter can introduce more bacteria into the urinary system and this increases the risk significantly for UTIs. A UTI that develops in someone using a catheter is called a Cather Associated Urinary Tract Infection , and the medical community has worked hard to reduce these preventable infections.
Catheters are appropriate for some conditions such as urinary retention, where someone is unable to completely empty their bladder, but they are not recommended without a specific medical condition that makes the necessary.
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Are There Any Complications From A Kidney Infection
Most people who develop a kidney infection make a full recovery if treatment is given promptly. Possible complications which occur in a small number of cases include:
- Sometimes germs from a kidney infection get into the bloodstream, particularly if treatment is delayed. This may cause blood poisoning . This can be serious or even life-threatening.
- In pregnant women who develop pyelonephritis occasionally, it may result in the baby being born early or with a lower birth weight.
- A kidney abscess can develop. This is a collection of pus that forms within the kidney.
- The infection can sometimes cause some permanent damage to kidney tissues.
These complications are uncommon but may be more likely if:
- You become severely ill with the kidney infection.
- You have kidney stones.
- Your immune system is suppressed – for example, if you have cancer, if you are taking medication such as steroids or chemotherapy, or if you have AIDS.
- You have poorly controlled diabetes.
- You are an older person .
- You are pregnant.
Emphysematous pyelonephritis is also a rare complication. In this condition the kidney tissues are rapidly destroyed by the infection and the bacteria can release toxic gases which can build up in the kidneys. You become very unwell if you develop this complication. This complication seems mostly to affect people who have poorly controlled diabetes.
Symptoms Of A Kidney Infection
Common symptoms of a kidney infection include:
- Pain in your back, side, or groin
- A feeling of needing to urinate, even though you just did
- Painful, burning, and/or frequent urination
- Cloudy or bad-smelling urine
- Blood or pus in your urine
Symptoms can vary by age. Babies and older people might not have the common symptoms. Instead, they may have slurred speech, dizziness, or confusion. Get medical care right away if you have any of these symptoms.
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The Link Between Uti And Dementia In Older Adults
Your elderly loved one with dementia may suddenly start displaying more severe behavioral symptoms of this disease and you may wonder why. There could be a simple reason behind it all. They could have a urinary tract infection, or UTI. This is a very common phenomenon in elderly dementia patients. Even if your loved one hasnt officially been diagnosed with dementia, you may notice that dementia-like symptoms, such as confusion, come on fairly quickly. Often, this can be traced to the development of a UTI. Whether your loved one is being cared for in a nursing home, in home care, or in hospice, you may wonder why this link exists. Lets explain why.
According to Alzheimers.net, if a senior patient already has dementia, a urinary tract infection may cause behavior changes instead of the physical symptoms that may plague a younger person. Whereas most otherwise healthy people display physical symptoms like burning when urinating, elderly patients may not complain of such pain. However, they may start to behave erratically, which is usually what tips off health care providers. If not detected early, infection can lead to serious health problems.
Four Ways To Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
1. Make sure your loved one drinks plenty fluids six to eight glasses per day. Use cups they can see and hold easily and top them up regularly with drinks you know they enjoy.
2. Give as much assistance as they will allow with personal hygiene. Easy-to-reach wet wipes in the bathroom might help. If they have physical mobility issues which make it harder for them to wipe, there are plenty of products which could make the process easier.
3. Constipation can make it more difficult to empty the bladder, which may, in turn, make a urine infections more likely. Encouraging a healthy, varied diet will lessen the risk of constipation and reduce the chances of another urine infection.
4. Look out for dehydration, as that can increase the risk of urinary tract infections, too. If they struggle to drink fluids , you can still boost their fluid levels through food as well as drink . Thickening agents can also be added to some liquids to make them easier to swallow.
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Kidney Failure And Mental Confusion
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Signs Of A Kidney Infection
What does a kidney infection feel like? According to the NIDDK, the most common kidney infections symptoms are:
But depending on a persons age, they may not experience all of these kidney infection symptoms. Children younger than two may only experience high fever as a sign of kidney infections, the NIDDK says, and people older than 65 might only present with cognitive issues, like confusion, hallucinations, and disorganized speech.
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How To Prevent A Kidney Infection
Preventing a kidney infection is really all about preventing urinary tract infections and getting prompt treatment if you ever get one. Sorry, but dont rely on cranberry juice or supplements for thisthe science is far too mixed to consider either of these a definitive UTI-prevention method. Instead, whenever you feel a bladder infection coming on, make it a habit to drink enough water every day to stay hydrated. That will ensure youre peeing often enough to help flush out bacteria that could lead to an infection. The NIDDK recommends peeing as often as you get the urge, but definitely at least every three to four hours, since urine hanging out in your bladder for too long may help bacteria to grow, the organization says.
Kaufman also stresses the importance of urinating like a fire hose after sex. It might even be helpful to skip peeing before sex as long as that doesnt make you uncomfortable, he says. This allows you to build up a forceful stream that may better help remove any bacteria that might have been pushed up there during sex.
Also, we referenced this above, but its important to reiterate: After you pee , you should be sure to wipe from front to back, as wiping back to front can spread harmful bacteria from your rectum to your urethra, where it can cause an infection.
Why Are Seniors At Risk For Utis
Men and women older than 65 are at greater risk for UTIs. This is because both men and women tend to have more problems emptying their bladder completely as they age, causing bacteria to develop in the urinary system.
In older men, this often happens because of a common condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia , or an enlarged prostate gland. The enlarged prostate blocks the flow of urine and prevents the bladder from fully emptying.
As women age, the bladder muscles weaken and prevent the bladder from emptying completely, increasing the risk of infection. Women also produce lower amounts of estrogen after menopause. This creates an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina, which can lead to infection.
Other risk factors for UTIs in older adults include:
- Using a catheter to empty the bladder
- Having kidney stones, which can block the flow of urine
- Having a suppressed immune system, which lowers the bodys defense against infection
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Who Is Affected By Utis And How Are They Treated
Women are more commonly affected by them than men. Around half of women will need treatment for at least one UTI during their lifetime.
If treated with the right antibiotics, UTIs normally cause no further problems and the infection soon passes. Though complications are uncommon, they can be serious and include kidney damage and blood poisoning, which can be fatal.
What Causes Kidney Infection
A kidney infection is caused by bacteria that enters your urethra and travels all the way up to your kidneys, triggering an infection. While this is the most common way of kidney infection, a bacterial infection elsewhere in your body can also spread through your bloodstream to your kidneys, causing moderate to severe kidney infection.
While it can happen to anyone, here are some of the risk factors that increase your predisposition to kidney infection:
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Signs And Symptoms Of Uti In The Elderly
Interestingly enough, the elderly with a UTI are often misdiagnosed with senior dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, because a UTI can mimic symptoms of such conditions. Also, according to Nursing magazine between 30% and 40% of elderly patients with serious infection don’t exhibit the hallmark sign of fever due to the inability of the immune system to mount a response to infection due to the effects of aging. As the bacteria in the urine spread to the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain barrier, confusion and other cognitive difficulties can be the result. Sudden onset of these symptoms should lead one to investigate possible UTI. An elderly person who is experiencing signs of mental difficulties should also be closely monitored for other signs of a UTI such as:
- Urine that appears cloudy
Uncommon Symptoms Of A Urinary Tract Infection You Should Know
About 40% of women develop at least one urinary tract infection in their lifetime. Having one UTI over the span of decades doesnt sound too bad, but not all women are that lucky.
Its estimated that 20-30% of women will have a second UTI within 3-4 months. And for 11% of women, UTIs become an ongoing problem, recurring at least once every year and often more frequently.
UTIs typically cause a specific cluster of symptoms: a strong need to urinate, frequent urination, burning when you urinate, and passing small amounts of urine. Women receive comprehensive care for UTIs at Fred A. Williams, MD, so call the office in Paris, Texas, if you experience any of those symptoms.
Were also available to answer your questions if you develop one or more of these three uncommon symptoms of a UTI.
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The Risk Of Utis As You Age
When you think of urinary tract infections , you may think they occur mostly in young adults, especially women. But UTIs are the most common type of bacterial infection in older adults over age 65particularly for those living in nursing homes.
While UTIs can cause mild problems for young adults, they can have more severe consequences in seniors. If left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure or sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection in the blood.
UTIs are a common problem seen in most medical practices, especially in older patients, said Gerald Oldham, MD, a geriatric medicine physician with Banner Health Center in Peoria, AZ. They seldom occur between ages 15-50, are more common in women and can be a severe issue in dementia patients.
If youre caring for an older adult whos at risk for a UTI, heres what you should know to make sure they are protected.
Are Utis A Sign Of Dementia
Urinary tract infections can exacerbate dementia symptoms, but a UTI does not necessarily signal dementia or Alzheimers.
As the Alzheimers Society explains, UTIs can cause distressing behavior changes for a person with Alzheimers. These changes, referred to as delirium, can develop in as little as one to two days. Symptoms of delirium can range from agitation and restlessness to hallucinations or delusions.
Further, UTIs can speed up the progression of dementia, making it crucial for caregivers to understand how to recognize and limit risks for UTIs in seniors.
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How Can A Urine Infection Cause Confusion
It may seem an unlikely connection, but it can be explained. A bladder infection puts stress on the body, physically and emotionally. If the person already has Alzheimers or another form of dementia, this stress can result in more confusion and changes in behaviour. This then causes a sudden though often temporary decline.
How To Prevent Utis In Seniors
Older adults can help prevent UTIs by drinking plenty of fluids to flush the bacteria from their systems, Forciea says. She recommends older adults drink four to six 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Forciea further notes that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry tablets also can make urine less inviting for bacteria.
Use these strategies to help prevent UTIs in elderly women:
- Urinating promptly after the urge arises
- Wiping front to back
- Emptying the bladder shortly after sex
- Taking showers instead of baths
If your loved one has frequent UTIs or other challenges that require help with daily tasks, consider talking to one of our Senior Living Advisors about home care or senior living options that can improve their quality of life.
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How Can Urinary Tract Infections Be Treated
UTIs are usually treated with a course of antibiotics. However, in order for your loved one to be prescribed the medication, you may need to collect a sample of urine to be analysed. Not surprisingly, this can be a particularly tricky activity to do for someone with dementia, particularly if they dont understand why youre doing it. There are some products that help to detect the presence of the bacteria that can cause UTIs in the urine and can be useful.