UTI’s in Women and Senior Adults


Posted by Kia Crawford on May 16th, 2012 in Alpharetta, GA, Education | No Comments

In honor of our celebration of Women’s Health Week here at Dogwood Forest Assisted Living in Alpharetta, we are highlighting some common medical conditions affecting women. One big issue with women’s health is the urinary tract infection also known as UTI. Most woman know the symptoms of  a UTI– symptoms include cloudy urine, pain and burning during urination, pressure and cramping in the lower abdomen, and a strong need to urinate. The UTI is  the body’s second most common infection. UTI’s are most common in women, and result in over 8 million doctors visits per year. Half of all women will develop a UTI in their lifetime. However, if this infection is left untreated, it can be serious when it infects the kidneys as well as causing sepsis, which is a potentially fatal infection of the bloodstream. This is why it is important to be aware of the symptoms early.

However, the symptoms that a 30 year old women will experience may differ from a woman in her 70s. The symptoms are drastically different for a senior with a UTI. Dogwood Forest of Alpharetta monitors residents closely for changes in condition. We know the drastic impact a UTI can have on our residents. The symptoms are generally the same across this older demographic. This is a result in a changes in the immune system response as we age. Some of the common warning signs in elderly adults are:

  • Abrupt changes in behavior
  • Confusion, agitation, fever
  • Frequent urination, and
  • Worsened memory issues in those with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia

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Causes

To understand how a UTI starts, it is important to understand the body functions in the urinary tract. The bladder, kidneys, ureters,  and urethra all work together to eliminate the body of urine. Urine is formed in the kidney to move waste and excess liquid from the bloodstream and out of the body. The urine moves to the bladder through the ureters, where it is stored until it is emptied through the urethra. However, if bacteria clings to the urethra and multiplies it can result in a UTI. UTI’s are thought to be more prevalent in women because they have a shorter urethra than men, which means it is exposed to more bacteria from other areas of the body including the rectum.

Older women who have gone through menopause as well as people who have diabetes, catheters, and kidney stones are more likely to develop a UTI. Women are more prone to UTI’s due to the changes in the lining of the vagina and decrease estrogen which is known to protect against UTI’s.

Diagnosis

There are several home test kits on the market that assist with diagnosing UTI’s. However, we recommend that you see your physician for a formal diagnosis. Your physician can tell you how severe your infection is as well as rule out any other conditions. If you encounter UTI’s frequently, your physician may order an ultrasound, intravenous pyelogram, or cystoscopy to look for abnormalities in other areas of the urinary tract such as the kidneys and bladder.

Prevention

Here are a few ways UTI’s can be prevented:

  • Hormonal Replacement Therapy: For women who are post menopausal and who are experiencing frequent UTI’s, hormone replacement therapy might be an option.
  • Don’t Hold It: Try not to hold your urine for long amounts of time. “Go” when it is time! Holding your bacteria means holding bacteria in your urethra. For women with incontinence, holding your urge to urinate is not a good strategy to prevent accidents.
  • Wipe Correctly: I’m sure many of us remembers mom’s lesson on the proper way to clean after using the bathroom. Remember to wipe front to back and not the opposite. The back to front method transfers bacteria from the rectal area to the vaginal area and exposes the urethra.
  • Take Showers Over Baths: Taking showers helps to prevent bacteria from entering the urethra.
  • Avoid Feminine Products that Can Irritate: Some feminine products can irritate the urethra, which could lead to bacteria growth.
  • Clean Before and After Sexual Intercourse and Urinate Promptly Afterward: This helps to prevent in the transfer of bacteria.
  • Drink Cranberry or Blueberry Juice: Drinking cranberry has been a remedy for UTI’s for years. However many don’t know that blueberry juice works as well. You can also get the added benefits of those awesome blueberries!
  • Lastly, Drink Plenty of Water: Drinking plenty of water is the best way to prevent UTI’s. Water helps to cleanse the body including your kidneys. The urine should be as clear as possible.

If you are a caregiver for a senior adult, it is important that you pay close attention to any sudden drastic changes in the behavior of the person you are caring for.  While UTI’s are common, they can be serious. If you have any questions about this topic call your physician of Dogwood Forest Assisted Living in Alpharetta. We will be more than happy to help.