The Dangers of Urinary Tract Infections

By Marlo Sollitto, contributing editor

Urinary tract infections (UTI) aren’t just a nuisance – they can cause serious health problems.

Symptoms of UTIs

A urinary tract infection happens when bacteria in the bladder or kidney multiplies in the urine. Many elderly are unable to express when they are experiencing the symptoms of a UTI. That’s why for some, the first signs aren’t always as obvious as they would be in a younger person. Caregivers should have their loved one checked out for a UTI if the following symptoms suddenly appear:

  • Confusion, or delirium-like state
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Other behavioral changes
  • Poor motor skills or dizziness
  • Falling

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Sometimes, these are the only symptoms of a UTI that show up in the elderly—no pain, no fever, no other typical symptoms of a UTI. These symptoms often have been mistaken as the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, conditions some elderly have even been diagnosed with, when they really have UTIs.

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Caregivers need to recognize that sudden behavior changes are not normal. These symptoms may be masking the most common symptoms of a UTI, which may not even show up at all in an elderly person:

  • A burning sensation upon urination
  • Strong need to urinate, even immediately after urinating
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Bloody, pink, or cloudy urine
  • Pressure or pain in the middle of the back
  • Low-grade fever
  • Night sweats, shaking, or chills

Why Do the Elderly Develop UTIs?

According to the National Institutes of Health, the following conditions make the elderly more susceptible to UTIs than younger people:

  • Diabetes
  • Urinary retention (unable to empty the bladder, even if your loved one has just used the bathroom)
  • Use of a urinary catheter
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Immobility (for example, those who must lie in bed for extended periods of time)
  • Surgery of any area around the bladder
  • Kidney stones

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UTIs Can Cause Death

UTIs can lead to a condition called sepsis, a potentially life-threatening bloodstream infection. That’s why caregivers must speak to their loved one’s doctor to find out what else may be done to help clear up regular UTIs.

Reduce Risk of UTIs in Those with Incontinence

People with incontinence are more at risk for UTIs because of the close contact that adult briefs have with their skin, which can reintroduce bacteria into the bladder. Some recommendations to help reduce this risk include the following:

  • Change the briefs frequently
  • Encourage front-to-back cleansing
  • Set reminders/timers for those who are memory-impaired to try to use the bathroom instead of the adult brief
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Add regular cranberry juice to help eliminate any UTI that already exists or add cranberry pills
  • Do NOT use cranberry juice or pills if your loved one has a family history of kidney stones or if your loved one is on blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, because these irritate the bladder

If you think your elderly parent might have a urinary tract infection, see your doctor right away.

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Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI2 years ago

thnak you for these advice

J.L. A.
JL A5 years ago

good to know

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

KS Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Brenda Towers
Brenda T5 years ago

A great article.

Dianna Barney
D B6 years ago

Good information. I've been hearing of UTIs being more prevalant than previously; someone I know who works with children tells me that even young children are getting them. And more and more powerful antibiotics are being used to treat them. A friend of mine suggested the use of a product called Cranactin to prevent UTIs, but it will not cure them. Thanks to all those who comment on this issue. It is an important health issue.

Mark Tennis
Mark Tennis6 years ago

None of the store products work for me. If you're a lady, and you know the maddening pain, doctor visits, nasty antibiotic prescriptions, and repeat visits associated with recurrent UTI. Please note, I'm not a doctor, and UTI's have the potential to turn into serious bladder infections, and a bladder infection cannot be gotten rid of without some hardcore antibiotics.

The Lady Soma Detox is the only detox product on the market that prevents my UTI's. I take as directed, and never have to experience a UTI as long as I drink a lot of water. You have to drink tons of water (and that alone is not what prevents the UTI, believe me). I don't know how it works, I just know it does. This is totally anectodal. Always see your doctor. Good luck!