Can urinary tract infections cause dementia in the elderly?

An infection can cause an imbalance in the substances and salts in the blood, and reduce the production of a hormone that contributes to the formation of red blood cells.

by Becky Feola — 

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the most common types of infections, and women tend to get them more frequently than men. UTIs are infections of the urinary system, which consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. They can be very serious and sometimes life threatening.

It can be difficult to determine if an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient has a UTI because they may not be able to fully verbalize how they feel. They may not understand or be able to express pain or the feeling of needing to urinate frequently.

An infection can cause an imbalance in the substances and salts in the blood, and reduce the production of a hormone that contributes to the formation of red blood cells. UTIs in the elderly or people with Alzheimer’s/dementias cannot only profoundly affect their physical health, but also can severely impact their behavior in such ways as disorganized thinking, disorientation to time and place, apathy or increased agitation.

Dr. Rajesh Tamp, director of psychiatry for Masonicare, feels that the connection between dementias and UTIs needs to be more widely understood and that people with urinary tract infections are often misdiagnosed as having dementia.

A significant difference is that confusion or changes in behavior brought on by an infection will come about much more quickly than confusion resulting from dementia.

So, if an older person shows sudden signs of confusion or behavioral changes, it may not be connected to dementia. The key here is to remember that even if an elderly person has Alzheimer’s or dementia and is exhibiting sudden changes in physical, mental or emotional health, it would be advisable to have them examined for a urinary tract infection. With treatment, their symptoms should ease and perhaps reverse altogether.

 

Becky Feola is a Scottsdale, Ariz., resident and an assisted living relocation expert who provides personal, full-service assisted living relocation services to families and individuals throughout the Valley through her company, Assisted Living Advantage. 480-419-4202, www.assistedlivingadvantage.com or beckyfeola@cox.net.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 2, Apr/May 2010.

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