Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms and Risk Factors

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
07/07/15  8:42 AM PST
Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms

A urinary tract infection is an infection in the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra). Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria that live in the bowel. UTIs are responsible for more than 8.1 million visits to the doctor and hundreds of millions in costs each year.

What are the Symptoms?

Urinary tract infections usually appear with a fever. However, 30%-40% of seniors do not display a fever, making a UTI difficult to recognize among older adults. Common signs and symptoms of UTIs include:

  • Painful urination
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Lower abdominal tenderness
  • Milky, cloudy or red/pink urine
  • Sudden onset of confusion that is not normal for the person
  • Grimacing or painful facial gestures when urinating

Who is at Risk?

Seniors. Anyone can develop a UTI, however age, incontinence and other medical conditions can increase your risk. Seniors are at greater risk for urinary tract infections because as the body ages, bladders lose elasticity and kidneys’ ability to filter waste decreases.

People with Incontinence. As incontinence increases, a person’s risk of developing a urinary tract infection increases along with it. This is because of the strong correlation between incontinence and urinary retention. The body’s natural way of preventing urinary tract infections is through voiding. As urine travels through the urinary system it washes bacteria out. Urinary retention – when small amounts of urine are left in the bladder after voiding – can be caused by:

  • obstruction of the urethra
  • nerve problems
  • medications
  • weakened bladder muscles

Incontinence signifies a higher likelihood of urinary retention – and a higher risk of developing a UTI.

Other Medical Conditions. Some medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer also increase the risk for UTIs.

Prevention & Care

It is very important to try to reduce the risk. Here are some recommendations:

  • Consume adequate amounts of fluid ( 6-8 8oz glasses per day).
  • Avoid consuming bladder irritants like alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods and citrus fruits.
  • Avoid tight-fitting undergarments made of non-breathable materials. Moisture can build up more quickly and lead to bacterial overgrowth around the urethra.
  • If the person is incontinent, change the absorbent products immediately after becoming soiled or wet. Urine can damage the skin and lead to bacterial buildup around the urethra, and bacteria from the bowel is the primary cause of UTIs.
  • Use the toilet after an incontinence episode to make sure that the bladder is completely empty. Leftover urine in the bladder can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Create a toileting plan to allow a trip to the toilet at least once every four hours – or more frequently if the goal is to reduce incontinence episodes. Try to empty the bladder at least once every four hours while awake.
  • Clean carefully after each incontinence episode or restroom use: wipe from front to back using warm water or hypoallergenic and unscented cleansing cloths.
  • Wash hands before and after each incontinent episode or use of the restroom.

This article is intended for educational use only and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. If you have any questions or concerns regarding urinary tract infection symptoms in yourself or a loved one, please contact your primary care physician.

Related: What Is Incontinence?


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    1. Hi Ms. Yee. Thank you for commenting. A UTI is a urinary tract infection, which is an infection in the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra).” Please let us know if you have any other questions. Again, thank you for commenting. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

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