When bacteria that normally are found on the skin, in the intestinal tract or stool work their way into the urinary system, usually through the opening that urine uses to leave the body, a urinary tract infection develops. A urinary tract infection (also called a bladder infection or a UTI) is a common condition that affects many people, especially the elderly.
UTIs and the Elderly
Elderly people are more prone to urinary tract infections than younger people are. This is because they are more likely to have bacteria in their genital/urinary areas. They are also more likely to be incontinent, prolonging their urethras to exposure to the bacteria present in urine and feces. Elderly people are also more likely to have problems emptying their bladders, causing urine to stagnate and become a haven for bacteria.
Strange it may seem, confusion is often the first and only sign of a urinary tract infection in an elderly person. The bacteria that invade the urinary system can cross over to the circulatory system. Once inside the blood, the bacteria can produce toxic byproducts as they grow and multiply. These toxic substances can get into the brain through circulation and cause damage. The result is confusion or delirium that may or may not be permanent, depending on how quickly the condition is caught.
Another sign of a urinary tract infection is a sudden change in the appearance of your urine. Urine is the main product of your urinary system and any changes should be investigated. Your urine may appear dark or cloudy. It may have blood in it. Sometimes it can have a particularly smelly or pungent odor. These are signs your urinary system is having trouble functioning.
One of the most common symptoms of a urinary tract infection is painful urination. When you urinate, you may experience an intense burning sensation. You may also experience pain in your pelvic region or lower back. The burning is caused by bacteria inflammation of the urethra, the tube through which urine leaves your body. The pelvic pain is caused by an inflammation in your bladder, while distressed kidneys can cause lower back pain. All of these structures are part of the urinary system, but distressed kidneys are a more serious problem than the others.
A persistent fever can be a sign of a urinary tract infection in an elderly person. This is particular true when a fever is present without other symptoms of cold or flu. While a persistent fever may be the only symptom of a urinary tract infection in some cases, in others it may not be present at all.