Delirium and Pain in Alzheimer’s: Could It Be a UTI?


Urinary tract infection (UTI), the most common urological disease in this country, is also the most frequent bacterial infection of any organ system. When a person with dementia develops a UTI, they can quickly become delirious or experience unremitting pain or both. Caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia poses particular problems because oftentimes the person cannot verbalize the discomfort that he or she is having. Therefore, whenever you notice any abrupt change in a care recipient’s behavior, you have to consider that it could possibly be due to a UTI.

Medical care should be sought when a UTI is suspected.

While not everyone who gets a UTI will have symptoms, most will have some, which can include painful and frequent urination. An infection of the urinary system (the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra) can be very serious, and even life threatening if it goes on too long without treatment.

To date, antibiotics have been the only weapon against an ailment that is responsible for more than seven million doctor visits and over a million hospital admissions annually.

With resistance to antimicrobial drugs on the rise-especially in hospitals, where 40 percent of all hospital-acquired infections (one million annually) are catheter-associated UTIs-more effective solutions are certainly needed.

UTIs occur mainly in women and can be caused by migration of intestinal flora into the bladder. UTIs are less of an issue with men, but if a man has an enlarged prostate and inadequate emptying of the bladder due to the large prostate, residual urine that sits in the bladder has more of a chance to become stagnant and infected, leading to an eventual UTI.

Tactics for preventing UTIs abound and include taking antibiotics at the first sign of symptoms, being sure to drink plenty of water or cranberry juice to help flush the urinary tract of the offending bacteria, wearing all cotton underwear, and wiping from front to back after using the toilet.

Antibiotic therapy is often very effective in eliminating acute Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection, which accounts for 75 to 90 percent of cases of this bothersome condition that causes the frequent, painful, and urgent need to urinate.