An 82-year-old woman and her daughter wait in a doctor’s office. Mom has been experiencing some abnormal symptoms lately that they want to get checked out.

Not only has she been dizzy, but her family has noticed that Mom has also been a more irritable and forgetful than usual. She hasn’t complained of any other physical symptoms.

An experienced physician who is familiar with the symptoms of UTIs in seniors will know right away that these symptoms could actually mean the woman has a UTI. How does the doctor know this? What will they test for?

Keep reading for common diagnosis and treatments for seniors with UTIs.

What Is A UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common type of infection that effects people of all ages. This infection can involve any part of the urinary system, including the urethra, ureters, bladder and kidneys.

Most people will experience symptoms like frequent urge to urinate, a constant feeling of a full bladder, burning sensation while urinating and pain in the lower abdomen. For seniors, these symptoms can look quite different.

Seniors with a UTI may experience a few or none of the common symptoms. Instead, many seniors experience UTI delirium — confusion, irritation, forgetfulness and other cognitive ailments as the result of a UTI.

Why Do UTIs In Seniors Go Untreated?

Seniors don’t experience the same symptoms of a UTI that most people do. In fact, seniors’ UTIs often go undiagnosed because their symptoms (changes in their behavior, memory, cognitive function, etc.) are confused with regular symptoms of aging.

The first step to diagnosing a UTI is understanding that seniors’ symptoms may look different than you’d expect. Like the mother and daughter duo mentioned previously, it’s important to note any sudden change in abilities, personality or behavior. Then, seek medical attention.

How Are UTIs In Seniors Diagnosed?

The process for diagnosing a UTI in a senior is generally the same as diagnosing a UTI in any other age group. A health care provider will typically ask about the senior’s symptoms and perform a physical examination to check for signs of a UTI. They may also press on the senior’s abdomen or back to see if there is any pain or tenderness.

To confirm the diagnosis of a UTI, the health care provider will typically test a sample of the senior’s urine to look for the presence of bacteria or other organisms.

This can be done with:

  • Dipstick test
  • Microscopy test
  • Culture test

The results of these tests can help the health care provider determine the best course of treatment for the UTI.

Another reason UTIs can be more difficult to diagnose in seniors is because they may have other medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms. For example, seniors with diabetes or a bladder or kidney disorder may have symptoms that overlap with those of a UTI.

In these cases, it may be necessary to perform additional testing to confirm the diagnosis.

How Are UTIs In Seniors Treated?

Seniors with UTIs are generally offered the same treatment as any other age group — antibiotics.

Antibiotics can be prescribed by you or your loved one’s doctor and work to kill the bacteria causing the infection. It’s especially important for seniors to finish the full course of treatment to ensure that the infection is completely cleared.

In addition to taking antibiotics, a doctor may advise a senior with a UTI to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Empty their bladder frequently
  • Take pain medication to manage discomfort