.You do not wait on urinary tract infections. When you see these signs, act quickly.
Typical Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections
- Urine that appears cloudy or dark
- Bloody or pink urine
- Low Back Pain
- Strong or foul-smelling urine
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate
- Pain or burning during urination
- Feelings of pressure in the lower abdomen
- Low-grade fever of 99-101 degrees
- Night sweats, shaking or chills
Do not confuse or worse, ignore these other symptoms. Thinking this could be the beginning stages or worsening stages of dementia means you are delaying treatment. First, the doctor will want to rule out a urinary tract infection as they can easily lead to a life threatening infection in the blood called sepsis. If these symptoms come on over 1-2 days, take note!!
Here’s what to look for.
- Confusion or delirium
- Other unusual behavioral changes
- Poor motor skills or loss of coordination
Treatment for Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly
If you think your loved one might have a urinary tract infection, see a doctor right away to avoid further complications. An urgent care facility or a telehealth conference call is a wonderful way to be seen quickly. Try to get an appointment with their primary care physician within 1-2 days.
A urine analysis is done in the office to test for bacteria. This tests for the presence of bacteria and some other changes. A urine culture must be sent off to a lab and will take 4-7 days to get the results. ALWAYS!! get the results. If this test has bacteria then it is definitely a urinary tract infection. If no bacteria grow in the lab dish, then something else is going on your loved one’s doctor will look further into what else could be causing the symptoms.
Antibiotics are usually prescribed at your visit. The reason for this is that the doctor wants to take no chances on your loved one getting sicker so will not wait for the lab results. This is normal practice because this infection really turns deadly quickly in the elderly. Also, if you go to an urgent care or do a telehealth call, be sure the pharmacy is still open. You want to start on the medicine immediately if your doctor says so.
Asymptomatic Bacteriuria vs Urinary Tract Infections
Also, know that the elderly are prone to another type of infection called asymptomatic bacteriuria. This means that even though bacteria are showing up in the urine, your loved one shows NO symptoms that we discussed above. Over 15 percent of people between 65 and 80 years of age have this. After age 80 it can be as high as 40 to 50 percent.
“But Suzanne, if they have no symptoms, how will I know they have bacteria in their urine?” You ask a good question. Once a year your loved one’s doctor does an annual exam. The senior pees in a cup and it is sent off for that urine culture. If the patient has no complaints, but the urine comes back positive for bacteria, then he or she has asymptomatic bacteremia. Is this bad? No, the bacteria are not bothering anything. There is no need for antibiotics. However, before any surgery, be sure to let the surgeon know there are bacteria in the urine so he or she can take extra precautions not to spread the bacteria to other parts of the body.
A word about antibiotics. Most times they work and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they work partially, and the patient gets better but after a while, the infection comes back again. The bacteria must be completely eradicated. Bacteria that are still alive are called resistant bacteria. If they are not completely eradicated, they can produce more resistant bacteria.
It depends on the type of bacteria. Some patients have bacteria that are resistant to ALL antibiotics taken by mouth. These types of infections are called ESBL. Infections caused by ESBL-producing germs are treated with antibiotics, but because they are resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics, treatment options might be limited. People with these infections sometimes need to be hospitalized for treatment with IV antibiotics. Other options for you may be to go to the Emergency room for IV treatment several days in a row. Another option is to see an Infectious Disease Specialist.
Let’s kill two birds with one stone…
If you suspect your loved one suffers from urinary incontinence then fill out this FREE questionnaire and take it with you to the doctor’s office. While you are there for a urinary tract infection, ask them to look over these answers and evaluate them for urinary incontinence.
Always check with your doctor or your loved one’s doctor before starting or stopping any medical treatment plan. The primary care doctor is the best professional to know and understand what is best for your loved one as he or she has their records and understands their illnesses best. The material contained here is for educational purposes only and not to be used in medical treatments or as advice.