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Bladder Infections in the Elderly

written by: AlyssaAst • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 4/18/2011

Bladder infections in the elderly are common as the bladder muscles begin to weaken and the immune system becomes suppressed. Treatment of bladder infections requires antibiotics.

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    Although anyone can suffer from a bladder infection, certain people are more prone to the infections, such as women and the elderly. The elderly are more prone to bladder infections because their immune system is often suppressed due to age and age-related conditions.

    “In elderly men and women, bladder muscles have become weaker, which leads to increased residual urine volume, less-efficient bladder emptying, and incontinence.”Nursing Magazine

    As the bladder muscles become weaker, elderly women and men become unable to empty their bladder fully, causing bacteria to accumulate within the bladder. Bladder infections in the elderly increase in frequency as a person ages and their bladder muscles weaken. Elderly men who have an enlarged prostate may have an obstruction to their urinary flow, increasing the risk for the infections. Elderly women often suffer from a bladder prolapse, which can also cause an obstruction to urine flow, increasing the risk for bladder infections.

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    Bladder Infections in the Elderly

    Often, the elderly are misdiagnosed when a bladder infection is present. The symptoms produced remain the same as in younger generations, such as cloudy urine, blood in the urine and a foul smelling urine. The infections often go misdiagnosed because as the infection worsens and the bacteria spreads to the blood stream, serious symptoms begin to occur, such as confusion and cognitive difficulties. As a result, the elderly are often diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In fact, Nursing magazine estimates 30 to 40 percent of the elderly don’t exhibit the traditional symptoms of a bladder infection. Traditional symptoms of bladder infections often include pain or burning during urination, frequent need to urinate and pressure in the lower pelvis. Other common symptoms the elderly may not exhibit are fevers, bloody urine and foul smelling urine.

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    Prevention and Treatment Options

    When a bladder infection is properly diagnosed, the infection can easily be resolved with the use of antibiotics. If catheters are used, it’s essential the catheters are removed and replaced often to reduce the risk for bladder infections. Due to the high occurrence of bladder infections in older people, preventing the infection is vital. To reduce the risk for bladder infection, feminine hygiene products and douches should be avoided. Alcohol, caffeine and other beverages that can irritate the bladder should be avoided as well. It’s advised cranberry juice or cranberry supplements are used to prevent bladder infections for those who don’t have a family history of kidney stones. Adequate water should be consumed as well.

    Genital hygiene is essential for preventing bladder infections. If adult diapers are worn, they should be changed often and the genital area needs to be cleaned with each changing. A woman’s genital area must always be wiped from to back to reduce the risk for bladder infection.

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