How would constipation cause a urinary tract infection?

9 answers | Last updated: Jun 12, 2017
Charlie marie asked...

My Mom is 88 and has advanced Alzheimers'. Her doctors say her constipation triggers her bladder or kidney infections. I am curious as to how this could happen. Thanks.


Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Constipation can increase the chances of bladder infections in two ways. First, if stool gets stuck in the rectum, it inhibits the emptying of the bladder, which can cause some people to retain urine. Urine retention leads to stagnant urine, which is a breeding ground for microbial growth, which will lead to a bladder infection.

The other way that constipation can lead to bladder infections is if someone takes too many laxatives to treat the constipation, they can get diarrhea. Diarrhea stool can easily contaminate the perineal area, since the rectum is only a few inches from the urethra, the opening of the bladder. Also, after female menopause, there is a decrease in the protective normal vaginal bacteria, so if stool bacteria gets into that area it can easily grow and travel into the bladder.


Community Answers

Cc49 answered...

wow this is a complete merry go-round answer if u do this you'll get that, if you don't do this you'll end up with that. and all that is a UTI which i was talking about that my mom gets constantly at the nursing home geeezzzz. there's no happy ending to UTI's is there????


Ca-claire answered...

Actually, recurrent UTI's and constipation can also indicate an insufficient intake of water. This is a problem with seniors, who either forget to drink water, have forgotten how little they have had, or they realize the more they drink, the more they go to the bathroom. All in all, it's a merry-go-round. No easy answers.

To help my father, we have him on stool softeners, have him drink at least 2 bottles of water a day, and on a diuretic.


Cc49 answered...

Hi, I can't get her to drink water at all ..."ive tried bottled water she doesn't like it, she hates the water they have up there...i am lost as to what to do. I've tried flavored water nothing!!! any info/ideas would be great


Ca-claire answered...

Does she cough when drinking liquids? You could try mixing a little knox gelatin in, or really, really diluted jello in her favorite flavor and call it a milk shake. She may be from an area where the water was 'unsafe' to drink. Try any clear liquid - broth, iced tea?


A fellow caregiver answered...

Wow Ive been having this problem for 15yrs and Im only 28! I often feel that my bowels get stuck right by my tail bone area. Is that related??? What are your thought about D mannose?


Help mom answered...

Try filling the water bottles with water that your mom was used to drinking and she may be ok with that. My mom is also in a home and gets uti's, we have to try anything we can think of to help our mothers.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Thank you for confirming what I had noticed with my mother, which is that constipation and UTI's seemed to go hand in hand. When relating this to the doc, she saw no correlation between the two. Now I know it is true! Mother is 91. She now takes Miralax to keep things moving and has not had a UTI in a long time, and she has had a lifetime of both. Miralax is not like ex-lax or even stool softener. She has more normally formed stools and no more problems with things backing up. It is also helpful to use a shower hose to rinse her off in that area, when she is on her standing lift, along with frequent changes in diaoer even if she has not wet, since bacteria can easily form in warm areas.


Aggie.b answered...

I realize this is late, but I thought that if your mom is not drinking, I could suggest a few things. As for the drinks themselves, any drink that your mom likes is OK. Every drink contains close to 100% water, which once consumed will be absorbed and appropriately utilized. There is a concern about tea/coffee because of caffeine and its diuretic effect, but the evidence from studies shows that this does not influence hydration status of the person. It may be that the fluid goes through the organism quicker, but does not make a person loose more fluid than usual. You may very well know what your mom likes to drink, but sometimes it is worth trying something different. I have done some research in care homes on this subject and the results show that older people tend to like sweet and flavorsome drinks such as apple juice, strawberry milk etc. This is because older people loose their sense of smell and taste. The least affected is the sweet taste, so this makes sense. Some foods are also great sources of water. These include fruit, ice cream, jelly, soup and many others. Many older people also like milky puddings that have lots of water in them. You and your mom can experiment to explore the preferences. If your mom has a swallowing difficulty (usually recognized by coughing) she may avoid fluids. There a few things to consider. Make sure your mom drinks from an open cup (no lid or straw) in a chin-down position. I suggest you see a speech and language therapist who would be able to advise you on this as well. Thickened fluids should only be given as a last resort because a) they don't taste as nice and do not quench the thirst, which results in people drinking less than they should, b) if a person aspirates, the fluid is more difficult to cough up, therefore leading to increased risk of chest infection, c) older person on thickener will become deconditioned i.e. will never be able to consume thin liquids again. If your mom has swallowing difficulty NEVER giver her gelatin based products (and ice cream for that matter). these melt in the mouth and produce a mass that has two or more consistencies, which makes it even more likely to aspirate. Again, I would strongly recommend seeing SALT team

I hope this helps