Urinary Tract Infections: Symptoms and Prevention


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most frequent clinical bacterial infections in women, accounting for nearly 25% of all infections. Around 50–60% of women will develop UTIs in their lifetimes.*  

There are some simple ways to help prevent UTI, but first we will look at some UTI facts and how infection can occur:

  • a Urinary Tract Infection or UTI is a bacterial infection that occurs anywhere along the urinary tract, which is made up of the kidneys, bladder, ureters and the urethra
  • females are more at risk of UTIs; the female anatomy means women are more susceptible
  • for men, an enlarged prostate can lead to obstructed urinary flow and urine stagnation; for women a bladder prolapse, due to weakness of the supporting structures, can have the same effect
  • the elderly are most likely to suffer from a UTI as they are more susceptible to illness and infections; the bladder muscles become weaker with age, which leads to less-efficient bladder emptying. Urine left in the bladder too long can stagnate and cause infection.

Symptoms of UTI

There are a number of symptoms to look out for, should your elderly relative or client show a change in behaviour or confusion.

Symptoms of UTI can often be confused with those of dementia; the below symptoms will signal UTI:

  • cloudy urine
  • blood in the urine
  • strong and foul smelling urine
  • frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • pain or burning with urination
  • pressure or pain in the lower back or abdomen

If an elderly relative or client you are caring for are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to speak to the individual/family about contacting the GP as a matter of urgency.


The most common treatment for a UTI is antibiotics; a GP can rule out other possible causes of symptoms by testing a sample of urine and may prescribe a course of antibiotics if a UTI is diagnosed. Once your relative or client starts treatment for UTI, the symptoms should start to clear up within five days.


Should you feel your relative or elderly client are at risk of UTI, the risk of further infection may be lowered by:

  • encouragement to visit the toilet as soon as they need to urinate and to always empty their bladder fully
  • avoiding perfumed bubble bath, soap or talcum powder around the genital area
  • wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight clothing
  • being sure to drink lots of water, trying to avoid drinks like alcohol and caffeine as they tend to irritate the bladder
  • keeping the genital area clean
  • women should always wipe front to back
  • incontinence pads should be changed regularly
  • taking showers instead of baths.

If an individual you are caring for is unwell it is important to speak to the individual/family about contacting the GP as a matter of urgency.


 * www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3749018/

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