The Urinary System
As people get older, the bladder changes, including bladder infections, urinary incontinence, and urinary tract infections. Elastic bladder tissue may toughen and become less stretchy. A less stretchy bladder cannot hold as much urine as before and might make you go to the bathroom more often. The bladder wall and pelvic floor muscles may weaken, making it harder to empty the bladder fully and causing urine to leak. Bladder problems can disrupt day-to-day life. When people have bladder problems, they may avoid social settings and have a harder time getting tasks done at home or at work.
Common bladder problems include:
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)— UTIs are the second most common type of infection in the body and can happen anywhere in the urinary system. More than half of women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. Older women are more likely to get UTIs because the bladder muscles weaken and make it hard to fully empty the bladder. This causes urine to stay in the bladder. When urine stays in the bladder too long, it makes an infection more likely.
Types of UTIs include: Bladder infection— This is the most common type of UTI, in which bacteria enter the bladder and cause symptoms such as strong and sudden urges to urinate. Kidney infection—Infections in the bladder can spread to the kidneys, which can lead to severe problems. When kidney infections occur frequently or last a long time, they may cause permanent damage to the kidneys.
Urethra infection — A UTI can also develop in the urethra, but this is less common.
Lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS)— a group of symptoms such as trouble urinating, loss of bladder control, leaking urine, and frequent need to urinate. LUTS are caused by problems with the bladder, urethra, or pelvic floor muscles.
Bladder cancer— Bladder cancer occurs in the lining of the bladder.
Everyone’s bladder behaves a little bit differently. But certain signs may mean a bladder problem.
Signs of a bladder problem can include: Inability to hold urine or leaking urine (called urinary incontinence), Needing to urinate eight or more times in one day, Waking up many times at night to urinate, Sudden and urgent need to urinate, Pain or burning before, during, or after urinating, Cloudy or bloody urine, Passing only small amounts of urine after strong urges to urinate, Trouble starting or having a weak stream while urinating, and Trouble emptying the bladder. Signs of Urinary Tract Infection: In some elderly people, mental changes and confusion may be the only signs of a UTI. Older adults with a UTI are more likely to be tired, shaky, and weak and have muscle aches and abdominal pain.
Symptoms of a UTI in the bladder may include: Cloudy, bloody, or foul-smelling urine, Pain or burning during urination, Strong and frequent need to urinate, even right after emptying the bladder, A mild fever below 101°F in some people. If a
UTI spreads to the kidneys, symptoms may include: Chills and shaking, Night sweats, Feeling tired or generally ill, Fever above 101°F, Pain in the side, back, or groin, Flushed, warm, or reddened skin, Mental changes or confusion, Nausea and vomiting, Very bad abdominal pain in some people, Some people may have bacteria in the bladder or urinary tract, but not feel any symptoms.
While you can’t control everything that affects bladder health, there are some steps you can take to improve bladder health.
- Don’t wait too long to use the restroom. Withholding urination can put added pressure on your bladder which can lead to infection.
- Pay close attention to hygiene – avoid harsh soaps and make sure to shower thoroughly after swimming in pools or lakes.
- Avoid foods that may irritate the bladder. If you have an overactive or sensitive bladder, avoid carbonated and caffeinated drinks and alcoholic drinks.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day in order to keep a normal urinary pattern. This works to remove any waste products in your system.