Having a urinary tract infection can bring on some very common and well-recognized symptoms. However, not all signs of a UTI are readily noticeable, and sometimes, the hidden signs that patients don’t immediately register as being related to the infection can be even more telling of how dangerous the infection is. This is especially true in the elderly, who sometimes have a completely different set of symptoms than younger people. These are 25 of the most common obvious and hidden signs and symptoms of a UTI.
What is a urinary tract infection?
A UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary tract, which comprises the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. They occur when bacteria slip into the urinary system through the urethra. Normally, the entire urine system is protected against such intrusion, having been created to excrete the waste and bacteria that arise in the body through urine. In fact, the main job of the kidneys is to filter out unwanted waste and bacteria and create urine so that the bloodstream remains clean and healthy.
Common symptoms of a urinary tract infection
Many people are aware of the most common symptoms of a UTI because these infections are quite common, especially in women. The fifteen most common notable symptoms include:
- Cloudy or dark urine
- Blood present in the urine
- A strong or foul smell in the urine
- Frequent need to urinate
- Urgent need to urinate
- Pain or burning sensations while urinating
- Pressure in the lower abdomen or pelvis
- Inability to empty the bladder
- Low grade fever
When patients are plagued by a number of these symptoms, it’s usually a sign they have a UTI, and they are ready to go to the doctor to treat the infection. This usually involves a round of antibiotics or, if the infection happens to be fungal, antifungal medication. In most cases, the UTI is not severe, and the course of medication is short, only a few days. The symptoms fade away, and the patient experiences relief.
With a kidney infection, additional symptoms usually appear, including:
- Pain in the lower back or flanks
- Shaking and chills
- High fever
- Night sweats
Hidden symptoms of a UTI
Not all symptoms of a UTI are readily notable, and many are hidden or silent. They may seem to be related to another condition, as well, leading to the need for testing to confirm the actual source of the problem.
For example, in seniors, a variety of symptoms that manifest more like dementia are common, probably due to the fact that thinner blood vessels allow the infection to more easily spread to the nervous system.
These symptoms include:
- Confusion and delirium
- Loss of coordination and motor skills
- Dizziness and falling
- Unusual changes in behavior, such as social withdrawal
It’s important to watch for these signs, since the elderly are prone to UTIs, and they can be even more detrimental to the health of seniors than other people.
Some of these include:
- Fatigue, which can lead to other complications
- Muscle aches and general feelings of being unwell (similar to flu)
- Cognitive issues (often due to being exhausted and restlessness)
With some of these symptoms, especially in combination with the typically recognized signs, patients should consult a physician to determine if they have a UTI that needs to be treated.
Risk factors for UTIs
Some people have a higher risk of developing a UTI than others.
- Women, especially those past menopause
- The elderly
- Being sexually active
- Using a diaphragm, spermicide, or a combination of the two
- Blockage in the urinary tract, such as kidney stones or bladder stones
- A weakened or suppressed immune system (this includes having conditions such as diabetes and HIV)
- Abnormal urinary tract, usually from birth
- Use of feminine sprays, deodorants, and douches
- Having had a recent procedure involving the urinary tract
Preventing a UTI
Because there are so many complications involved in urinary tract infections, and some of the symptoms are easy to overlook, it’s crucial to do everything possible to avoid them. This is especially valid for those at a higher risk of developing a UTI.
Things that can help prevent UTIs include:
- Staying hydrated. Drinking enough fluids, especially water, keep the urinary tract flushed of bacteria so they don’t get a chance to grow. It also helps dilute urine so that it doesn’t provide such an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive.
- Drink cranberry juice. This needs to be the bitter, concentrated stuff. In studies, it appears cranberry juice keeps bacteria from settling into bladder walls.
- Avoid scented and irritating feminine hygiene products. These can cause irritation in the urethra, leading to a more favorable environment for bacterial growth. Don’t use douches.
- Take showers instead of baths, and if taking a bath, don’t use bubble bath, as this can exacerbate the growth of bacteria.
- Wipe from front to back, avoiding the possibility of dragging additional germs from other areas toward the urethra.
- Emptying the bladder as soon as possible after intercourse will help remove any bacteria that entered the urethra during sex, helping to relieve the possibility of an infection.
- Choose a different birth control method that doesn’t involve a diaphragm or a condom containing spermicide.