The Surprising Connection between UTIs and Dementia

In younger people, the presence of a urinary tract infection can bring about signs such as increased frequency or a burning sensation when peeing. The aging process can alter your immune system, so you may not necessarily experience these same symptoms as you grow older. For many seniors, the first sign of a UTI is actually behavioral changes, particularly for those suffering from dementia. Here’s why sudden behavioral changes could warrant a visit to Nephrology Associates.

Common Effects

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, a condition known as delirium may occur whenever Alzheimer’s patients contract a UTI. Characterized as an “acute confusional state”, delirium ranges from mild to severe, and can include things such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise, which is identified as discomfort that is difficult to pinpoint
  • Mood swings

In many cases, the first sign of a urinary tract infection is increased falling. Other times, it may manifest itself by unusual behavior such as extreme yelling, cursing, or undressing in public. If your loved one suddenly acts in a manner that is highly out of character, a UTI could be to blame. This is particularly true if there has recently been an increase in the number of accidents or bed-wetting episodes.

Mental Rather than Physical Symptoms

Many dementia patients experience the above behavioral changes, but notice few if any physical symptoms. In addition, the presence of UTIs can often cause dementia to progress faster than usual. Caregivers must recognize that outward changes in one’s behavior could warrant an examination to determine whether that person is suffering from a UTI.

The presence of a urinary tract infection does not necessarily indicate dementia or Alzheimer’s. However, when a UTI is accompanied by a drastic change in mental state, this could mean that person is suffering from undiagnosed dementia.

Preventing UTIs among Dementia Patients

Encouraging an individual with dementia to seek medical treatment can sometimes be very challenging. Patients often refuse help because they believe there is actually nothing wrong with them. As such, it becomes especially important to prevent urinary tract infections whenever possible. Some ways to prevent infections are:

  • Drinking at least six to eight glasses of water each day.
  • Avoiding alcohol, coffee, and tea.
  • Limiting sodium intake.
  • Encouraging regular trips to the bathroom, preferably spaced around two to three hours apart.
  • Having women wipe from front to back in order to prevent bacteria from entering the vagina.
  • Practicing good physical hygiene, to include taking daily showers rather than baths.

Suffering from a UTI? Come See Us

The mental and emotional ramifications brought about by a UTI can be frightening for patients and caregivers alike. If you or a loved one has recently experienced drastic or unusual fluctuations in behavior, we invite you to visit our clinic to find out whether or not a urinary tract infection is to blame. In the majority of cases, clearing up the infection will also eliminate the associated behavioral changes, allowing individuals to begin feeling and acting more like their old selves again.