Why Are Seniors at High Risk for UTIs?

Apr 16, 2024
Why Are Seniors at High Risk for UTIs?
It only takes one urinary tract infection (UTI) to make you realize you don’t want to have a second one. Burning pain or the inability to pass urine requires medical help right away. Learn why seniors are at high risk for UTIs. 

As an older adult, your health care issues likely go beyond simple aches and pains. As you age, you’re more prone to infections that can cause your health to deteriorate quickly. 

At Norwood Medical Associates in Norwood, Massachusetts, we provide geriatric care. We’re able to detect many problems at an early stage, helping prevent more serious illness. 

As a senior, you’re more at risk for a urinary tract infection (UTI) than a younger person. We help educate you on symptoms of UTIs so you can be proactive and come in for a checkup if you suspect you have one. 

Although both men and women are prone to UTIs, women over age 65 are at an even higher risk. More than 1 in 10 senior women report a UTI every year. Up to 30% of women over age 85 report them.  

Following are common reasons why seniors are at risk for UTIs. 

Hormonal changes 

Hormonal changes play a big role in the increase in UTIs in senior women. The female hormone estrogen keeps the vagina acidic, which lowers the amount of bacteria that produce infections. 

After menopause, the estrogen level drops dramatically. The vagina loses acidity, and the tissue becomes thinner and drier. Bacteria growth can move more easily from the vagina to the bladder. 

Enlarged prostate/kidney stones  

Senior men may develop an enlarged prostate, and senior men and women may develop kidney stones; both conditions can prevent the bladder from completely emptying. Bacteria can grow in the remaining urine and lead to an infection.  

Loss of muscle strength

As you age, you may lose strength in your bladder muscles. Pelvic floor muscles in men and women support the bladder and bowel; those muscles can grow weak. Consequently, you may not be able to pass all of your urine.  

Lower immune system function 

Your body’s immune system fights off infections. As you age, your immune system becomes weaker and less efficient, making you more prone to infections. 

Bladder leakage/incontinence

When you’re a senior, your bladder may not be able to hold as much urine as it did 20 or 30 years ago. Your bladder’s capacity can change as you age. 

You may find that you need to wear a pad in your underwear to prevent wet underwear. Your bladder may sometimes release urine involuntarily when you’re a senior. It’s often part of the aging process. 

If you use a catheter, you likely already know the risk of a UTI is higher. Remaining vigilant in cleaning yourself helps protect against UTIs. 

Mobility issues 

If you have a hard time cleaning yourself, or if you wipe from front to back after using the bathroom, bacteria may move from your stool to your urethra, leading to an UTI. If you can’t get to the bathroom in time or if getting to the bathroom is difficult, you may experience frequent bladder leakage that causes a UTI. 

Your Norwood Medical Associates physician counsels you about strategies to avoid UTIs. We focus on preventive care to help keep you in great shape as you age. Call the practice or request an appointment through our online portal today.