The urinary tract is made up of:

  • The urethra, which carries urine from your bladder out
  • The ureters, which carry urine from the kidney to the bladder
  • The bladder
  • The kidneys

The urinary tract is the same in both men and women. Women have a greater incidence of urinary tract infections (UTI) because of their anatomical structure; their urethra is shorter than a man’s. A UTI is caused when bacteria enter the urethra and is not fought off by the immune system. The bacteria can travel to the bladder and if not treated, it can travel further up to the kidneys.

Classic symptoms of a UTI include the following:

  • Burning pain with urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Pelvic pain
  • Urgency
  • Fever and chills
  • Abnormal odor
  • Delirium, a temporary state of confusion with a sudden onset. People with delirium become easily distracted, can hallucinate, or have delusional thoughts (a fixed false belief)

In seniors with dementia, you may also see:

  • Increased confusion
  • Agitation
  • Incontinence
  • Decreased appetite
  • Aggressive behavior

If the infection travels to the kidneys, you may see:

  • Back pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting

A urinalysis is a simple test used to determine infection and a urine culture lets the doctor know what specific bacteria is growing in the urine.

Treatment is antibiotics. The antibiotic chosen by the doctor will be dependent upon the type of bacteria found in the urine. Typically, if a urinalysis is positive, the doctor will start a broad-spectrum antibiotic right away. It takes 24-48 hours for a urine culture to grow, and the antibiotic will be changed if necessary, based on the results of the urine culture.

UTIs are a nuisance but they can also be very serious if not treated quickly. If you experience any of the symptoms above or if your loved one with dementia has behavioral changes, increased confusion or sudden onset incontinence, consider a UTI as the cause and seek medical intervention.

If you or someone in your family are facing concerns about health or other aging related challenges, please give us a call at 480-804-7200 or email us at to find out how we can assist.