New thinking about urinary tract infections

Don't be surprised if your doctor doesn't rush you into treatment.


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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be tricky in older age. They're not always as easy to spot or treat as in youth. And the decades-long approach to treatment is changing. "We've been hasty in using antibiotics, and we're learning there are significant consequences that can range from side effects of medication to infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria," says Dr. Helen Chen, a geriatrician at Harvard-affiliated Hebrew Rehabilitation Center.

About UTIs

UTIs can occur anywhere in the urinary tract. The most common places are the bladder (where urine is stored) and the urethra (the tube through which you urinate). Less common, but more serious, is infection of the kidneys, which filter waste and extra water from the blood and make urine. Infections may be triggered by sexual activity, catheters, kidney stones, decreased estrogen in the lining of the vagina, or urine that's pooled in the bladder.

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