Both men and women can contract a urinary tract infection, or UTI. Left untreated these common infections can compromise your health and lead to kidney damage. Which is why it’s so important to recognize the symptoms of an UTI.
Women tend to do battle with urinary tract infections more often than men simply because of our anatomy. Our urethra is shorter. That means the bacteria that cause UTIs don’t have as far to travel before they can infect our urinary tracts.
Which is why, experts say, 40 to 50 percent of all adult women will have to deal with the discomfort of a UTI.
But as we age both men and women become more vulnerable to these uncomfortable infections. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians says UTIs are the most common infection in older adults.
For you ladies, it’s about estrogen. Or the lack of it. When your estrogen levels drop off during menopause, the walls of your uterine tract begin to thin out. This thinning makes it easier for bacteria to latch on and cause infection.
For you guys, UTIs are associated with an enlarged prostate. Most men deal with a swollen prostate as they get older, and this can keep you from emptying your bladder completely. But the longer urine stays in your bladder, the easier it is for bacteria to grow and settle in.
Know your UTI symptoms to spot infections early
To make the issue even more complicated, the most common symptoms that can make a UTI obvious may not always show up at first (if at all) in older folks.
Which is why it’s so important to know all the potential symptoms of a UTI, including the unexpected ones.
Following are seven UTI symptoms you need to know…
1. Burning and aching pain:
Burning pain when you are peeing… and often even when you aren’t… is the classic UTI symptom. When the acid in your urine meets the inflamed, infected tissue in your bladder, it burns. And since there’s always at least some urine in your bladder, the pain can strike anytime.
A dull ache in your pelvis, which may remind you of menstrual cramps if you’re a woman, is also common.
2. Your pee stinks:
Unless you’ve been eating asparagus, you probably don’t notice the smell of your pee, and that’s a good thing. Typically, when urine has a strong unpleasant odor it’s a sign something’s wrong. A UTI is a likely culprit.
The bacteria that caused the infection in the first place are also responsible for your pee smelling funky. For some folks it’s an ammonia like smell. For others it’s a slightly sweet, but offensive odor.
3. Your pee looks funny:
The reason you urinate is to help flush toxins out of your body. Your kidneys extract the waste products from your bloodstream along with excess sugar, water and other compounds. Normally the result is the light to medium yellow liquid we call urine or pee.
But when your body’s drainage system—the urinary tract—becomes infected, the appearance of your pee can change. The bacteria can cause blood and even pus to mix in with your urine making it look cloudy, pinkish, or both.
4. You have to “go” RIGHT NOW:
A frequent urge to pee and yet producing very little urine is another classic sign of a urinary tract infection.
When you’ve been hit with a UTI, the muscles in your bladder start to contract, even before your bladder is full. This makes you feel like you have pee constantly, even when you’ve just gone and your bladder is empty.
5. Confusion or agitation:
One of the most surprising signs of a urinary tract infection, and the most commonly overlooked, is feeling confused or agitated for no reason. The medical professionals call this “a change in mental status.” And if you’re a senior, you’re at much higher risk for this symptom.
So if you, or someone you love, suddenly becomes confused or begins to behave differently than normal, don’t panic. Ask your doctor to run a urine test to see if you have a hidden UTI on your hands.
6. A dull ache in your back or sides:
Most people automatically think of pelvic pain with a UTI. But many folks report a dull ache in their back just below the rib area, or one in their side, as well.
If you’ve missed the other symptoms, this one can be a red flag that the infection has spread. An undiagnosed UTI can infect the kidneys if it goes untreated for too long.
If you have any of the other UTI symptoms, no matter how mild, and your back starts to ache “for no reason,” check in with your doc.
Knowing what signs to look for with a UTI can help you spot an infection early before it can become severe or does permanent damage. If you have any of these seven symptoms make an appointment to see your doctor right away.