What are the Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly?

Article Details
  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article

Recognizing and determining the symptoms of urinary tract infections in the elderly is sometimes difficult to do. Although common symptoms for nearly all age groups include burning during urination, frequent urination, and the feeling of having to urinate but with little or no success, elderly patients sometimes have few or no symptoms until the infection is more severe. Symptoms primarily experienced by older adults include urinary incontinence, changes in behavior, and the sudden inability to do everyday tasks.

Urinary tract infections in the elderly can be serious. This is especially true for those who suffer from dementia or another disorder because they may be unable to distinguish symptoms and report them to care providers. Although urinary infections are normally easy to treat and are not life-threatening, they can spread into the kidneys if not treated promptly and lead to serious complications.

Some elderly patients will experience symptoms typical with a urinary tract infection. These include pain upon urination, urgency, and the inability to pass urine. Many times, however, urinary tract infections in the elderly will cause no symptoms until they have become more severe.

One common symptom among older adults is the sudden onset of urinary incontinence. This may be especially pronounced in men because infections may cause the prostate to swell and reduce the flow of urine. When the bladder is not fully emptied, small amounts of urine can dribble out at random times during the day.


Since urinary tract infections in the elderly put so much stress on the body, they can lead to changes in behavior or symptoms of dementia that were not present previously. This is more likely to occur in those who are already suffering from some sort of dementia, but symptoms will worsen rapidly from one day to the next.

Urinary infections can also lead to severe complications if not caught early. Kidney infections and sepsis are commonly associated with serious infections of the urinary tract. Care providers should be diligent to investigate any unusual symptoms. Checking for infection is usually noninvasive and usually only takes a few moments to complete.

The most common treatment for urinary tract infections in the elderly is antibiotics. They can be delivered intravenously or orally. Men, and sometimes women, who have been having trouble emptying the bladder may be given a catheter to drain the urine until the medication begins to take effect, although this can sometimes lead to a secondary infection if left in place too long.



Discuss this Article

Post 2

The bad part is when you have to explain to a doctor that elderly people may not have any symptoms *except* the confusion! My aunt was helping care for her husband's aunt and said when the lady starting acting just a little confused, they could count on a brewing kidney infection. Otherwise, she was sharp as a tack.

She never had any of the common symptoms. I don't know why the elderly don't react that way, but they often don't. My aunt had to get the doctor to note it in her chart that she was prone to kidney infections and showed few symptoms. I think they called it "occult infection" or something like that. Cranberry juice helped her avoid them, though.

Post 1

Elderly people who get kidney infections frequently suffer from confusion and dementia-like symptoms whether they actually have dementia or not. My mom sure did!

She did not complain of burning, pain, fever or anything, but her confusion was severe. She was also nearly falling a lot. Someone was staying with her 24/7, which she had never needed, and this came on very quickly.

We got her to the ER, where the doctor initially thought she had had a stroke, but nope. It was a "raging" kidney infection. She was in the hospital a week and in rehab for five weeks. It was bad.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?