It's healthy to have bacteria in your digestive tract and on your skin. But when bacteria enter the bladder and kidneys, there can be problems. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the reason for 8 million doctor visits every year.
Who is at risk?
UTIs affect mainly women, but they occur in older men, too. Seniors are especially vulnerable because of
- decline in muscle strength around the bladder. This interferes with effective emptying of the bladder. Bacteria can then grow in the pooled urine.
- weakened immune system. Aging itself reduces the body's ability to fight infection. Some diseases, such as diabetes, make the situation worse.
- poor bladder or bowel control. Soiled pads and diapers give bacteria prolonged opportunity to enter the urinary tract.
- lack of estrogen (for women). Estrogen may help ensure that bacteria do not stick to the walls of the urinary tract and vagina.
- enlarged prostate in men. An enlarged prostate creates further difficulty emptying the bladder completely.
- neurological disease. Conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's also make it hard to completely empty the bladder.