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Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Older Adults

Topic Overview

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in older women and men. Factors that make older adults more likely to develop UTIs include:

  • An immune system that isn't as strong as when the person was younger.
  • A reduced ability to control urination and bowel movements (incontinence), which increases the chance of getting bacteria into the urinary tract.
  • A hospital stay or living in a long-term care center, where the person may have a urinary catheter inserted, making bladder infections more likely.
  • Problems with the bladder dropping down out of its normal position (bladder prolapse or cystocele). When this happens, the bladder cannot empty completely, making infections more likely.
  • Lack of estrogen in women who have gone through menopause. Lack of estrogen may allow bacteria that can cause UTIs to grow more easily in the vagina or urethra and cause an infection in the bladder.
  • In men, partial blockage of the urinary tract by an enlarged prostate.
  • Other conditions, such as diabetes, lack of activity, poor hygiene, or problems releasing urine.
  • Use of medicines that can cause difficulty urinating or a complete inability to urinate. If you think your medicine may be causing urination problems, talk to your doctor.

Older adults also are more likely to have conditions that complicate UTIs, such as a lower resistance to infection. They may require more thorough evaluation and longer antibiotic treatment than young adults who have uncomplicated infections.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology
Last Revised May 13, 2013

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