Urinary tract problems in elderly


With age human body changes. These changes can cause different issues in elderly. As you get older, you are more likely to suffer from kidney and urinary tract problems. Kidney problems can also increase the risk of other conditions such as cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease. As people age, there is a slow, steady decline in the weight of the kidneys. After the ages of 30 to 40, about 66% or two thirds of people, even those without any prior kidney issues, undergo a gradual decline in the rate at which their kidneys filter blood. However, the rate does not change in the remaining one third of older people, which suggests that factors other than age may affect kidney function.


Arteries that supply blood to kidneys shrink. The shrinking of arteries may cause blood supply issues to the kidneys. When in a normal sized kidney does not get enough blood, it can cause the kidney to decrease in size. Decrease in kidney size means that it won’t be able to work as efficiently as it used to causing a decline in the ability of the kidneys to excrete waste products and many drugs and an inability to concentrate or dilute urine and to excrete acid.


Normal functioning kidneys always have a reserved part of the kidney function available for times when your kidneys have to work extra hard to remove waste. We don’t use 100% of our kidneys when we are young and healthy. With age, sufficient kidney function is preserved to meet all the needs of the body. Changes in body caused by age does not affect kidneys directly. These changes reduce the amount of reserve kidney function. So, in two thirds of the elderly kidneys have to work at nearly their full capacity to carry out all the normal kidney functions. It means that even a minor damage to one or both of the kidneys may result in a loss of kidney function.


Next thing in urinary tract are ureters. Ureters, one from each kidney, are tubes that descend into bladder. Their main function is to take urine from kidneys to bladder. Ureters do not change much with age, but the bladder and the urethra do undergo some changes. Bladder holds the urine until we feel like urinating. Urethra is a tubular passage through which urine is discharged from the bladder to the exterior of the body. The maximum volume of urine that the bladder can hold decreases. A person’s ability to delay urination after first sensing a need to urinate also declines. The rate of urine flow out of the bladder and into the urethra slows.


Throughout life, sporadic contractions of bladder wall muscles occur separately from any need or appropriate opportunity to urinate. In younger people, most of these contractions are blocked by spinal cord and brain controls, but the number of sporadic contractions that are not blocked rises with age, resulting sometimes in episodes of urinary incontinence. The amount of urine that remains in the bladder after urination is completed (residual urine) increases. As a result, people may have to urinate more frequently and have a higher risk of urinary tract infections.


In women, the urethra shortens and its lining becomes thinner. These changes in the urethra decrease the ability of the urinary sphincter to close tightly, increasing the risk of urinary incontinence. In men, the prostate gland tends to enlarge with aging, gradually blocking the flow of urine. If untreated, blockage may become nearly complete or complete, causing urinary retention and possibly kidney damage.


Kidney diseases can be serious, but early detection and good management can increase the life of your kidneys.


Kidney disease is not always accompanied by warning signs. If you have one of the risk factors for kidney disease, it is recommended that you have a kidney health check (blood test, urine test and blood pressure check) from your doctor at least every two years.


Older people are more at risk of some kidney and urinary tract diseases. These include:


  • Inflammation or swelling of the kidneys – caused usually by conditions such as glomerulonephritis
  • Diabetes – this is one of the most common cause of kidney disease. Even when diabetes is well managed it can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves.
  • Urinary tract infections – untreated urinary tract infections can spread into the kidneys. If you ignore to consult a doctor a lasting damage can occur. In older women urinary tract infections are very common. Older women should regularly get checked for urinary tract infections as well as kidney disease.
  • High bloody pressure – this is also one of the most common causes of kidney disease, heart disease, stroke and loss of vision.
  • Urinary incontinence – uncontrolled leaking of urine from the bladder is called urinary incontinence. It increases the risk of urinary tract infections which in turn can cause kidney disease. A doctor should be consulted if you are having this problem. It may be a cause of another serious issue such as kidney issues or an enlarged prostate in men.
  • Hereditary kidney disease – hereditary can also play a role in kidney disease such as polycystic kidney disease.
  • Obesity and smoking also cause kidney issues.


Symptoms of kidney disease don’t always show up. That’s why kidney disease is called a “silent disease”. There usually are no warnings. That’s why for older people it is highly recommended to get checked very regularly for kidney disease even if they feel fine. It is reported that upto 90 percent of the kidney function is lost before getting any symptoms. Some of the kidney disease symptoms include:

  • High blood pressure
  • The number of times you urinate usually at night. If that number changes you need to see a doctor
  • Changes in appearance of urine
  • blood in the urine
  • puffiness of the legs and ankles
  • pain in the kidney area
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • headaches
  • lack of concentration
  • itching
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea and vomiting
  • bad breath and a metallic taste in the mouth


There are number of things that you can do to keep your kidneys healthy. For example, if you have diabetes, make sure to control your blood sugar levels. Take anti-hypertensive medications as prescribed by your doctor if you have high blood pressure. Do regular kidney health checks like blood test and urine test at least every two years. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure you can do the above-mentioned tests each year. Drink plenty of water. Do not smoke. Drink moderately or do not drink at all. Keep an eye on your weight. Control bloody cholesterol levels with diet and medications if necessary. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.


If you face problems due to urinary tract issues you can always contact Kadakacare. Our team of healthcare workers is always ready to help you in any situations. We can design a proper meal plan for you to keep your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.



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