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What are the Hidden Signs of Urinary Tract Infection after 50?

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As you look at the list below, ask yourself a key question: Is this symptom something new?

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AARP’s recent article entitled “Sneaky Signs of a UTI After 50” explains that UTIs are extremely common in older women. They’re one of the primary indications for prescriptions of antibiotics in older women. Older women are twice as likely to get recurrent UTIs as younger women.

If you’re diagnosed with a UTI, your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics which will knock out the underlying infection. Doctors say that sometimes a UTI will go undiagnosed in older adults, until more severe symptoms set in. That’s why it pays to know this list of symptoms:

  1. Painful Urination (Dysuria). This is caused by bacteria. 75 to 95% of the time, it is escherichia coli, or E. coli, which invades the urinary system from outside the body. It usually comes from the perineum, the area between the anus and the urethra. Excess bacteria can cause inflammation, so a UTI can cause burning or stinging while urinating.
  2. A Sudden, Unexplained Urge to Urinate. Any woman who’s ever had a UTI is painfully familiar with the feeling that as soon as you go to the bathroom, you feel the urge to urinate again. However, nothing comes out no matter when you try. As we age, some people experience urgency or frequency, often due to the bladder muscle weakening. However, if this urgency has developed suddenly or has gotten worse, you might have a UTI.
  3. Pain in Certain Areas. UTIs can cause newfound discomfort in (i) the lower pubic area near the bladder; or (ii) the lower-to-mid back (the costovertebral area), which is the location of the kidneys. The pain is because infections cause inflammation to surrounding tissues.
  4. Cloudy or Foul-Smelling Urine. The key here is urine that suddenly “smells funny” or doesn’t look clear when you look at it in the toilet.
  5. Blood in Your Urine. A UTI in a postmenopausal woman can cause another change in your urine: the presence of non-menstrual specks of blood. The tissues in your bladder and urethra become so irritated and inflamed that there is some bleeding. That blood is not always obvious, but with a gross hematuria, which means larger amounts of blood in the urine, the urine will either be bright red or have a pinkish or cola color.
  6. Fever. Any infection, including a UTI, can cause a spike in temperature. Watch for a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater. You should also look for the fever in the context of some of the other symptoms. A fever alone doesn’t mean you have a UTI. Use a tympanic (ear), oral or axillary (armpit) thermometer to check your temperature. The fever may be accompanied by chills and even nausea.
  7. Mental Fog. Even if you don’t have any of the above symptoms but suddenly feel mentally “off” (with no other apparent causes), talk to your doctor. Confusion can have other causes, such as dehydration or depression. It’s a signal that you should check in with your doctor.