Older adults, especially those who live in nursing facilities, are often tested for urinary tract infections (UTIs). However, if you don’t have symptoms of a UTI, urine tests are usually not helpful — and may be unnecessary.
“It is common for older adults to have bacteria present in their urine without experiencing any urinary symptoms,” says Dr. David Hall, a Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group double board-certified internal medicine and pediatrics doctor. “A urine test can detect bacteria even if it’s not causing an infection or any symptoms, which may lead to unnecessary treatment using antibiotics.”
Dr. Hall says unnecessary use of antibiotics should be avoided. “When antibiotics are used improperly, they not only destroy healthy bacteria, but also promote the growth and proliferation of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria — which make it harder to treat or cure illness, especially in older adults,” he says.
Overuse of antibiotics may unnecessarily expose older adults to other risks, including dangerous drug interactions among those who may be taking other medications. Antibiotics can also cause side effects such as fever, rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and kidney failure.
When you should have a urine test
Dr. Hall says that a urine test may be appropriate if you experience the following urinary symptoms:
- Pain when urinating
- Blood in the urine
- A strong urge to urinate often
Because these symptoms signal the possibility of a UTI, you should see your doctor, who can best determine if you need a urine test. Your doctor may also recommend a urine test if you have a fever or if a blood test suggests that you may have a bacterial infection in the absence of typical symptoms.Even if you are symptom-free, a urine test is often needed if you are scheduled for the following procedures:
- Prostate surgery
- Kidney stone removal
- Bladder tumor removal
At Sharp Rees-Stealy, we want to empower you to make well-informed choices about tests and treatments for your family. That’s why we’ve made it our priority to support our doctors in helping you make smart and effective decisions by participating in Choosing Wisely®.
Choosing Wisely, an initiative of the ABIM Foundation, educates patients and doctors on selecting the most effective treatment available and avoiding unproductive, costly procedures. Sharp Rees-Stealy is the only medical group in Southern California to participate in this national campaign.