Older Women and UTIs: Risks and Prevention

It’s a feeling that no woman wants, but many women know. 

You urgently run to the bathroom, sit down and feel the burn of a urinary tract infection (UTI). 

First Things First

Step 1: Drink a big glass of water to dilute your urine and flush out bacteria. 

Step 2: Call your urogynecologist for an accurate diagnosis and the best course of treatment and read our blog about how to treat a UTI 

 UTIs are among the most common bacterial infections in the United States and are twice as common in women than in men.  

 For older women, low estrogen, pelvic organ prolapse and other pelvic floor disorders can all contribute to a higher risk of getting a UTI.   

What Is a UTI?

The pain and urgency of a UTI is most commonly caused by unfriendly bacteria entering and spreading in the urethra and bladder. Women are twice as likely to get a UTI because a woman’s urethra is much shorter than a man’s making it easier for bacteria to enter the urethra and progress to the bladder. UTIs should be treated quickly to prevent infection from spreading to the kidneys.  

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What Are the Symptoms of a UTI?

A painful and burning UTI sounds the alarm that harmful bacteria have entered your system. Some of the most common symptoms include: 

  • Constant urge to urinate 
  • Urinary incontinence 
  • Passing small amounts of urine frequently 
  • Cloudy urine
  • Pink, red or brown tinged urine, indicating blood in the urine
  • Burning feeling when urinating
  • Urine that smells strong or atypical
  • Pelvic pain 

However, these symptoms can indicate other conditions especially in older and post-menopausal women. 

A UTI can also be asymptomatic, or misidentified. Testing urine is the only sure way to diagnose and identify a UTI. 

 How do I treat a UTI? 

Before diagnosing a UTI, your urogynecologist may do a physical examination and test your urine for signs of infection. A urine culture will identify the bacteria causing your infection, so you’ll get the right antibiotics and treatment.  

What Are My UTI Risk Factors?

If not properly treated, older women are more likely to experience recurring or chronic UTIs. An older or post-menopausal woman’s risk factors include: 

  • Pelvic organ prolapse or other pelvic floor disorders  which can cause urinary blockage 
  • Low estrogen levels 
  • Urinary system issues such as bladder lesions or kidney stones
  • A weakened immune system
  • Urinary catheter use
  • Recent urinary surgery or cystoscopy procedure
  • Sexual activity, which can cause bacteria to spread from the anus and vagina to the urinary tract or from one partner to another 
  • Using a diaphragm or spermicidal agents for birth control 

These risks should be discussed with your urogynecologist. 

Preventing a UTI

Once you’ve had a UTI, you never want another. Fortunately, there are some simple steps women can take to lower the risk and occurrence of UTIs.  

  • Maintain your pelvic floor healthRoutine examinations, preventative treatments and exercise help preserve and strengthen the pelvic floor to prevent vaginal or prolapsed bladder 
  • Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Water dilutes your urine and ensures more frequent urination to flush out bacteria  
  • Wipe from front to back. This keeps bacteria from the anal area from infecting the urinary tract and vagina
  • Throw away the spray. And other potentially irritating feminine products. These products can irritate the urethra, creating a friendly environment for bacteria to flourish
  • Urinate after sex. Urination flushes away potentially infectious bacteria  

At the Coyle Institute, we see women with urinary and pelvic floor health issues, including incontinence and infections, every day. We know that these conditions can be uncomfortable, painful and disruptive to your life! Call for your consultation today to begin a journey toward pelvic floor health.  

If you currently have a UTI or have had recurring UTIs, call Coyle Institute as soon as possible.