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Midlife Flow Problems

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIS) can become more common in both men and women at midlife

Susan Ince  

 

Understanding how your age changes your risk and the best treatments can bring relief. Often men get a urinary tract infection for the first time in their 50s, usually because of a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate, says Dr N. Subramanian, urologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi. A growing prostate compresses the urethra, causing a weak urine stream, the need to pee frequently and a dribble after a void. If the bladder doesn't completely empty, the reservoir of urine can become infected.
Some 5 to 10 per cent of men who have an enlarged prostate experience repeat UTIs. Medication can relax muscles in the gland or shrink it so urine can pass easily. Minimally invasive procedures (usually endoscopic) to relieve blockage or pressure also help, he says. While blocked pipes can cause UTIs in men, weakened pipe linings contribute to women's increased risk.
As oestrogen levels drop during menopause, the germ-fighting capability and physical barrier of the urinary tract weaken and the mix of bacteria in the vagina changes--all of which can increase the odds of developing UTIs.


Antibiotics treat acute infections, but other treatments may be necessary to prevent recurrences. A few weeks of topical oestrogen cream treatment in postmenopausal women can strengthen the urinary tract wall, making it less prone to infection. "However, oestrogen creams are not recommended for those with a family history of breast, ovarian or uterine cancer," says Subramanian. If you start experiencing UTIs out of nowhere, your doctor will want to rule out other issues, such as stones in the bladder or the kidney.


Catheters also can be a hazard for UTIs. Germs can enter the slim tube, if the device is inserted incorrectly, not kept clean or left in too long. This also applies to individuals in nursing homes.


When older individuals develop UTIs, they may become confused and suspicious during the infection period. Seniors, especially, may be more likely to become delirious because of changes in the immune system. And, many older adults don't have the usual symptoms of a UTI. So, if you suspect a loved one might have a UTI because of changes in their behaviour, have them tested and treated, if necessary

Cut Your Infection

Risk Boost good bacteria. Small studies have found that women with repeat UTIs are less likely to get another if they use vaginal suppositories with the probiotic lactobacillus, which balances good and bad bacteria.
Drink cranberry juice. In a 2013 meta-analysis, cranberry juice and supplements reduced repeat UTIs.
Wipe from front to back. The most common UTI-causing germs are from the gastrointestinal tract, so wipe from front to back to avoid moving the bugs closer to your urinary tract.
Pee after intercourse. This gives bacteria less chance to enter the urinary tract.
Drink lots of water. When you urinate, bacteria are flushed from the urinary tract, so drink enough to go regularly, especially if you have incontinence.


With inputs by Gagan Dhillon

 

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