What is an Untreated UTI?
Common symptoms of a UTI include burning with urination, an urgency or frequency of urination, and pain below the belly button. However, in some cases symptoms of a UTI aren’t always obvious, such as with older people who may have neurological issues like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, stroke victims, or other disabilities in which there is limited or no sensation below the waist.
Most UTIs, or urinary tract infections, are fairly common and can be easily treated with a course of antibiotics. But what if an UTI goes untreated? Untreated UTIs can lead to serious complications.
Symptoms of an Untreated UTI
Sometimes in seniors, signs of an untreated UTI may be very subtle and hard to determine. One signal that may be a clue is when a person’s behavior suddenly changes, or they seem confused. Other symptoms of an untreated UTI may include:
- Fever over 101 degrees
- Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
- Extreme fatigue or listlessness
- Unusual anxiety
- Weak pulse
- Painful or burning feeling while peeing
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Reduced urine output
- Pain in your lower abdomen or back, near the kidneys
- Profuse sweating
Complications from an Untreated UTI
Untreated UTIs can have some serious complications. Some things to look out for include:
Kidney Infection – When a UTI goes untreated, the bacteria from the infection can travel from your bladder up into your kidneys. This infection of the kidneys is called pyelonephritis and be life-threatening. A kidney infection is very treatable, but can lead to permanent kidney damage or scarring and can increase your risk of kidney failure or high blood pressure if left untreated.
Urosepsis – Untreated UTIs may spread to the kidney and cause severe complications such as urosepsis and septic shock. Urosepsis happens when the bacteria that causes your UTI infects your blood stream. Urosepsis is life-threatening and may cause the organs in your body to shut down, so its important to see a doctor as soon as you experience UTI symptoms.. Urosepsis causes symptoms such as dizziness, rapid breathing, confusion, rapid heart rate, fever, and chills.
Pregnancy Complications – Pregnant women are at higher risk of experiencing symptoms from an untreated UTI. They are more likely to develop a kidney infection from an untreated UTI that may lead to an increased risk of an early labor. There is also a risk of delivering a premature baby or a baby with a low birth weight.
Who Else is at Risk for an Untreated UTI?
Other risk factors for people to get urosepsis and other complications from an untreated UTI may include patients who:
- Use a catheter
- Are 65 years or older
- Have diabetes
- Have compromised immune systems from infections such as HIV and AIDS
- Have a prior history of urinary condition
- Are immunosuppressed from drugs like chemotherapy or corticosteroid treatment
Treating an "Untreated" UTI
When discovered early, a UTI can easily be treated with antibiotics, usually a course of seven days or so. However, resolving complications from an untreated UTI is a more difficult task that may require a hospital stay and intravenous antibiotics.
If you are hospitalized, your doctor will likely prescribe you with IV antibiotics to treat the bacteria as soon as possible. You may also be prescribed vasopressors which help to constrict the blood vessels. Vasopressers will keep your blood pressure stabalized and may prevent urosepsis. In addition, your doctor may want to monitor you closely for more serious symptoms that require surgery to remove the infection completely.
UTIs are entirely treatable, so if you recognize symptoms do not hesitate to call a doctor. If you think you may be experiencing UTI symptoms, book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and get a prescription today.