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Urinary Tract Infection

What is a Urinary Tract Infection?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs, also known as urine infections or water infections) are the most common infectious health problem among older adults. They can be painful and uncomfortable, but they usually pass within a few days or can be easily treated with a course of antibiotics.

They’re more common in women than in men – it’s estimated that half of all women in the UK will have a UTI at least once in their life and one out of every 2,000 healthy men will develop one each year.

Common Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection Include

  • pain or a burning sensation when urinating (doctors refer to this as dysuria)
  • a need to urinate often
  • pain in the lower abdomen (tummy)
  • cloudy urine
  • unusually unpleasant smelling urine
  • fever
  • blood in the urine
  • confusion or delirium
  • incontinence or incontinence that is unusual for that person
  • a general sense of feeling unwell
  • a feeling of tenderness around your pelvis

Further Symptoms Could Include;

  • uncontrollable shivering
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • back pain

There are 2 different types of UTI. One where the lower urinary tract is infected and one where the upper urinary tract is infected. Upper urinary tract infections can be quite serious as they can cause kidney damage. Urinary tract infections are usually treatable with a course of antibiotics and painkillers however, in more serious cases hospital treatment may be required.

The signs and symptoms can vary from person to person therefore it is advisable to seek a professional medical diagnosis. You may experience some or all of the symptoms described above. Some people may not have any physical symptoms of a urinary tract infection but may appear confused which could be mistaken as a sign of dementia. This could mean that the urinary infection is missed and remains untreated.

If you think you (or someone you know) may have a Urinary Tract Infection you can get help from your local GP, your local walk in centre or in an emergency Accident and Emergency at your local hospital. For information on how to find services nearest to you please visit NHS.UK.

When to seek medical advice?

It is recommended that you visit your GP if you suspect that you have a Urinary Tract Infection.

You should also visit your GP if you have a risk factor that increases the chances of the infection causing more serious complications. These risk factors include:

  • being over 65 years of age
  • a weakened immune system (immunocompromised) caused by treatment such as chemotherapy or a health condition such as HIV
  • kidney disease
  • type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • a foreign body in your urinary tract, such as a kidney stone, or an in-dwelling catheter (a tube that is used to drain the bladder)
  • being pregnant

Other Useful Information

Bladder and Bowel problems factsheet from Age UK

Last updated: August 20, 2020