Urinary Tract Infections in Adults: Causes and Diagnosis


A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a collective term for infections that involve any part of the urinary tract–your bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra. Most of these infections start in the lower urinary tract and affect the urethra and bladder.

It is one of the most common infections in local primary care. The incidence of UTIs in adult males aged under 50 years oldd is low. But if older adults infected with UTI are left untreated, it can become a real danger to their health. Adult women are 30 times more likely than men to develop a UTI. About 60% of women and 12% of men will have at least one UTI during their lifetime.


The following
also increase your chances of developing a UTI:

  • Bacteria can enter your urethra, attack your immune system and then spread to your bladder and kidneys.
  • Infections with bacteria will cause urinary tract infections in elder adults as well as in younger people. For the elderly, dementia or living in an assisted living facility are more likely to fall victim to this type of infection.
  • Women who have gone through pregnancy or menopause increase the chance of getting UTIs.
  • Besides, patients diagnosed with bowel incontinence, enlarged prostate, narrowed urethra, and kidney stones have a greater risk of having UTIs.
  • Women who use diaphragms for birth control also have a higher risk of UTIs.
  • You are more likely to get a UTI if your urinary tract has an abnormality or has recently had a device placed in it.
  • Anatomical abnormalities may be structural abnormalities, such as outpouchings called diverticula.
  • Diseases such as diabetes (high blood sugar) that lower your immunity also put you at higher risk of UTIs.


Classic UTI symptoms include:

  • Urethral burning with urination
  • Pelvic pain
  • Frequent urination
  • An urgent need to urinate
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Urine with an abnormal odor

Older adults may not experience any of the
hallmark symptoms due to weakened immune systems that are unable to fight
against the invading infection. At this point, they may have non-classic UTI symptoms,

  • Incontinence
  • Agitation
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Hallucination
  • Falls
  • Urinary retention
  • Decreased mobility
  • Decreased appetite

Other symptoms may occur if the
infection spreads to the kidneys. These severe symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Flushed skin
  • Back pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


To diagnose a UTI, your doctor will ask about your medical history, performs a physical exam, and may recommend one or more tests.

Your doctor may ask for a urine sample for lab analysis to look for white blood cells, red blood cells or bacteria. Lab analysis of the urine tells your doctor what bacteria are causing your infection and which medications will be most effective.

If you are having frequent infections
that may be caused by an abnormality in your urinary tract, you may have an ultrasound, a computerized tomography
(CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Your doctor may also use a
contrast dye to highlight structures in your urinary tract.

If you have recurrent UTIs, your doctor
may perform a cystoscopy, to see inside your urethra and bladder.


There are two
types of infections: simple and complicated infections. Ways of treatment vary
targeted at different infections.

Simple infection

Antibiotics usually are the first line treatment for urinary tract infections. Which drugs are prescribed and its period of use depend on the patient’s history and the urine tests that identify the offending bacteria.

Commonly recommended drugs include:

Take the entire
course of antibiotics as prescribed.

Complicated infection

infections often require several weeks of antibiotic treatment.

  • Analgesics

Your doctor may
also prescribe a pain medication (analgesic) that numbs your bladder and
urethra to relieve burning while urinating.

  • Hospitalization

Patients who are very sick with kidney infections should be hospitalized.

  • Lifestyle

To help cleanse
the urinary tract of bacteria, patients with UTI are usually suggested to drink
plenty of water. Drinks with caffeine like coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods should
be avoided. Heavy smokers also need to quit smoking.

Keywords: urinary tract infections in adults.

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