You may have heard of terms Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) or have experienced one yourself.   Some people have had multiple UTI’s throughout their life. It begins with a sudden urge go to the bathroom or painful urination. It may also seem like you are making trips to the bathroom constantly.  If you are experiencing such symptoms, you may have a urinary tract infection. A UTI is a bacterial infection that occurs anywhere along the urinary tract; which includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, or the urethra.

It is important to understand and manage urinary tract infections, especially in the geriatric population.  According, to The Merck Manual of Geriatrics, as many as 10% of all elderly have symptomatic urinary tract infections.  In addition, over half of women and over a third of men 80 years or older are more likely to develop asymptomatic bacteriuria, which is having bacteria in their urine.  Several factors have been linked to the development of UTI in the elderly. These factors include increased age, menopause, and the structure of the urinary tract.

Sometimes the only symptom of a urinary tract infection in the elderly is acute confusion. This is when the bacteria in the blood produces toxic substances that can pass through the blood brain barrier and causes confusion.  This confusion can often be mistaken for senile dementia or Alzheimer’s.  So as the patient is being worked up for these two conditions, this can further delay the treatment of the UTI.

When a bacterial urinary tract infection goes untreated, it can lead to serious conditions that require immediate medical treatment.  These conditions can include sepsis, a serious medical condition affecting the whole body.  Another serious condition is pyelonephritis, which is when a bacterium has reached the kidney and causes kidney damage.

The best way to approach the UTI is to prevent it.  There are 3 simple changes that patients can make to minimize the chance or recurrence of the urinary tract infection.

  1. Stay hydrated to prevent dehydration, which can be a causal factor in developing an infection.
  2. Take a probiotic for prevention. Probiotics are good bacteria that populate the urinary tract system and help prevent bad bacteria from multiplying and causing problems.
  3. Consume unsweetened cranberry juice. According to the Mayo Clinic, cranberry has been researched for numerous medical uses. Promising areas of this investigation also include the prevention of pylori infection, which causes gastric ulcers and dental plaque. If the unsweetened cranberry juice is too strong or you are prone to heartburn, you can dilute the cranberry juice with water.  The other alternative to unsweetened cranberry juice is concentrated freeze-dried cranberry.  Cranberry has a very long history for the treatment of UTI if taken in a therapeutic dose.

It is recommended to follow these steps mentioned above for prevention.  If you believe you are experiencing the symptoms of a UTI, seek medical treatment and further consult with your doctor.