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Urinary Tract Infection in Older Adults
A urinary tract infection
(UTI) is caused by bacteria that get inside your urinary tract. Your urinary tract includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urine is made in your kidneys, and it flows from the ureters to the bladder. Urine leaves the bladder through the urethra. A UTI is more common in your lower urinary tract, which includes your bladder and urethra.
Common signs and symptoms include the following:
- Fever and chills
- Pain or burning when you urinate
- Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy, or blood in your urine
- Urinating more often or waking from sleep to urinate
- Sudden, strong need to urinate
- Pain or pressure in your lower abdomen
- Leaking urine
- Confusion or agitation
- Fatigue, shakiness, and weakness
Seek care immediately if:
- You are urinating very little or not at all.
- You are vomiting.
- You have a high fever with shaking chills.
- You have side or back pain that gets worse.
Call your doctor if:
- You have a fever.
- You are a woman and you have increased white or yellow discharge from your vagina.
- You do not feel better after 2 days of taking antibiotics.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Medicines treat the bacterial infection or decrease pain and burning when you urinate. You may also need medicines to decrease the urge to urinate often. If you have UTIs often (called recurrent UTIs), you may be given antibiotics to take regularly. You will be given directions for when and how to use antibiotics. The goal is to prevent UTIs but not cause antibiotic resistance by using antibiotics too often.
- Drink liquids as directed. Liquids can help flush bacteria from your urinary tract. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You may need to drink more liquids than usual to help flush out the bacteria. Do not drink alcohol, caffeine, and citrus juices. These can irritate your bladder and increase your symptoms.
- Apply heat on your abdomen for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease discomfort and pressure in your bladder.
Prevent a UTI:
- Urinate when you feel the urge. Do not hold your urine. Bacteria can grow if urine stays in the bladder too long. It may be helpful to urinate at least every 3 to 4 hours.
- Urinate after you have sex to flush away bacteria that can enter your urinary tract during sex.
- Wear cotton underwear and clothes that are loose. Tight pants and nylon underwear can trap moisture and cause bacteria to grow.
- Cranberry juice or cranberry supplements may help prevent UTIs. Your healthcare provider can recommend the right juice or supplement for you.
- Women should wipe front to back after urinating or having a bowel movement. This may prevent germs from getting into the urinary tract. Do not douche or use feminine deodorants. These can change the chemical balance in your vagina. You may also be given vaginal estrogen medicine. This medicine helps prevent recurrent UTIs in women who have gone through menopause or are in peri-menopause.
Follow up with your doctor as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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