UTIs are just a problem for young women. Although UTIs are more common in young women, men, too, are not immune to infections of the urinary tract. One of the most common infections in middle age and older men are urinary tract infections.
Older men (such as, men 70 years and older) are at somewhat higher risk for UTIs because of problems going to the bathroom and/or emptying the bladder. Older post-menopausal women are also at a greater risk for UTIs due to lower amounts of vaginal estrogen, which can change the vaginal climate. The normal flora, ‘good bacteria,’ are looked at as ‘good’ because they kill off other types of bacteria that can cause UTIs. Good bacteria can only grow in slightly acidic vaginal climates and this needs some estrogen. Systemic estrogen replacement options like pills and skin patches do not help with this problem, but vaginal estrogen therapy can be helpful for certain individuals. Talk to your doctor to see if this is a choice for you.
Often, older adults can help stop UTIs by staying hydrated, using the bathroom and getting routine health exams to screen for health problems like high blood sugar that puts you at higher risk for getting a UTI. If you or a loved one wears adult diapers, it’s very important to keep the genital area clean and to change them often.
Other Groups at High-Risk for UTIs
People with high blood sugar and vesicoureteral reflux are at higher risk of getting a UTI. Vesicoureteral reflux is when urine goes backwards from the bladder toward the kidney. Over time, this reflux of infected urine may raise a person’s risk for kidney damage. Vesicoureteral reflux is usually seen in children with UTIs compared to adults. Additionally, some patients with kidney stones and indwelling catheters may also be a higher risk for getting a UTI. An indwelling catheter is a hollow tube that is placed into the bladder through the urethra and left inside your body. The catheter drains urine from your bladder into a bag outside of your body. A catheter-associated UTI happens when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the catheter and cause an infection.
How UTIs are Diagnosed
In most cases, if you think you have a UTI, you should visit a health care provider and give a urine sample for testing. A urinalysis is a test that looks for white blood cells, red blood cells, bacteria, and or other chemicals such as nitrites in your urine. A proper urinalysis can pinpoint an infection and a urine culture can help your health care provider choose the best antibiotic for treatment. It is vital to get a urinalysis and culture performed to make sure you have an infection and require care. Use of antibiotics when not needed, can be tricky, and can lead to greater rates of bacterial antibiotic resistance.
It should be noted that some individuals get a urinalysis result that shows bacteria, but the individuals are not having any symptoms of a UTI. This event is common in older adults. If the individual has bacteria in their urine, but has no symptoms, treatment is not right. Treatment should be given to individuals who have bacteria and associated UTI symptoms.
In closing, it should be noted that studies on cranberry juice and linked supplements are mixed. Some studies show that cranberry supplements can be helpful and other studies show that they don’t help stop UTIs before they happen. Be sure to read about the pros and cons of cranberry products, and decide if they’re right for you. For now, practice these tips to lower your risk of getting a UTI.
Tips for Preventing UTIs
- Drink plenty of water.
- Urinate often.
- Don’t hold it.
- Keep your genital area clean.
- Empty your bladder before and after sex
Bottom Line: UTIs are common in men and women. Men after age 70 are at a risk for UTIs. The symptoms are burning on urination, frequency of urination, passing cloudy urine, and even blood in the urine. The diagnosis is easily made with a physical examination, a urine exam, and occasionally other imaging studies. Treatment with antibiotics is usually effective.