What Happens When a UTI is Left Untreated?

Last updated on: February 3, 2023

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are common for adults, specifically women. They are often harmless and treated routinely without a second thought; one would never expect these types of infections to pose a serious threat to someone in a nursing home facility. However, these infections are especially dangerous in a nursing home setting because if they go untreated, your loved one can suffer serious harm.

If your loved one has suffered because of an untreated UTI in a nursing home, you may want to know who can be held responsible. If you feel your loved one’s illness was the result of neglect, you may wish to have your case evaluated by an untreated UTI lawyer. Indeed, if your loved one has suffered any unnecessary illness due to nursing home neglect, call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers.

What is a UTI?

A UTI is a urinary tract infection; it is an infection that occurs in any part of your urinary system, meaning the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. Most infections involve the bladder and the urethra, which is the lower part of the urinary tract; UTIs can affect both women and men, though women are more prone to suffering from them. In older patients, it is common for a UTI to be overlooked or mistaken for a different condition.

What Causes a UTI?

Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. Bacteria may take hold and grow into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract.

The most common UTIs occur mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra; an infection of the bladder is called cystitis, and often results from bacteria that travels from the digestive tract to the urinary tract. An infection of the urethra is called urethritis and occurs when GI bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra. Also, because the female urethra is close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia and mycoplasma, can cause urethritis.

What Are Symptoms of a UTI?

Most UTIs are bladder infections. The symptoms for bladder infections include:

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • The urge to urinate often
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Urine that is cloudy or foul-smelling

An untreated UTI can result in a kidney infection. Kidney infection symptoms include:

  • Pain on either side of the lower back
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

What Are the Risk Factors for Developing a UTI?

Urinary tract infections are common in women, and many women experience more than one infection during their lifetimes. Risk factors specific to women for UTIs include:

  • The female anatomy—females have a shorter urethra than males, meaning there is a shorter distance for bacteria to travel to the bladder.
  • Being sexually active
  • Birth control
  • Menopause

Other risk factors for UTIs not exclusive to women include:

  • Urinary tract abnormalities
  • Kidney stones
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Catheter use
  • Recent urinary tract procedures

How Is a UTI Diagnosed?

There are a series of tests and procedures used to diagnose urinary tract infections, including: taking urine samples and analyzing them in a lab, creating CT imagery of the urinary tract, and using a scope to enter the urinary tract. A doctor may ask for a urine sample for lab analysis to look for white blood cells, red blood cells, or bacteria. Lab analysis of the urine is sometimes followed by a urine culture; this test tells a doctor what bacteria are causing the infection and which medications will be most effective.

If a patient is having frequent infections that a doctor thinks may be caused by an abnormality in the urinary tract, they may perform an ultrasound, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the urinary tract. If a patient has recurrent UTIs, a doctor may perform a cystoscopy, using a long, thin tube with a lens (cystoscope) to see inside the patient’s urethra and bladder.

How Is a UTI Treated?

For a simple UTI, caught early, a doctor will treat the patient a using antibiotics. Sometimes, antibiotics are not needed at all, and a doctor may recommend that a patient drink lots of water to flush out the bacteria. An untreated UTI that progresses in severity, however, will usually require a hospital stay and intravenous antibiotics to treat.


Like most infections, the longer a UTI is left untreated, the worse a patient’s condition can get. Complications associated with an untreated UTI occur when the infection spreads from the bladder to one or both kidneys. When bacteria attack the kidneys, they can cause damage that will permanently reduce kidney function.

In patients who already have kidney issues, this can increase the risk of kidney failure. A rare complication may also occur wherein the infection enters a patient’s bloodstream and then spreads to other parts of the body; in very rare cases, a UTI left untreated can result in death after the infection spreads through the bloodstream.

Why Would a UTI Go Untreated?

UTIs are often noticeable at the outset. If someone is a resident in a long-term care facility, their caregivers will typically notice the signs and symptoms when speaking with and attending to a resident. Thus, when an elderly adult in a nursing home suffers from an untreated UTI, it is often because they are suffering from neglect.

What Is Nursing Home Neglect?

Inadequate care in nursing home is often a result of neglect. Neglect in nursing homes is a form of nursing home abuse. It is a failure to act when needed and comes in two forms: active and passive.

Active neglect occurs when a caretaker intentionally fails to execute their responsibilities and take care of a resident. Examples of active neglect include withholding medical care, depriving a resident of food and water, or abandoning the resident entirely.

Passive neglect involves “non-willful failure” to perform caretaking responsibilities. Nursing homes are required to monitor residents regularly and provide necessary care, and passive neglect may occur when this monitoring system fails. Examples of passive neglect include failure to give a resident medicine or failing to bathe a resident as needed.

Failing to adequately diagnose and treat a UTI is a form of nursing home abuse. The cause for such abuse can be due to a variety of circumstances; the facility may be understaffed, or the staff may not be qualified for their assigned responsibilities. In addition, the facility may have performed inadequate background checks on employees before hiring them; any of these scenarios can result in patients being in the charge of employees who actively withhold medical care or neglect to diagnose and treat conditions that can become life threatening.

What to do if you suspect abuse or neglect

If you suspect your elderly loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect, the first thing you should do is talk to them, as they may be able to tell you what is going on. They may be able to explain to you the symptoms they are experiencing, which could indicate whether they have an infection and how far it has spread.

You can try to speak with the staff at the facility to make them aware of the situation and have them correct it. If nothing changes after reporting the abuse to the facility, your next step should be to have your loved one treated by a doctor as soon as possible to treat the infection. Then, you should file a complaint with the appropriate state agency where you live, such as the Department of Health.

From the moment you suspect abuse or neglect you should document everything you can. Keep medical records regarding your loved one’s treatment, and keep a written record of your recollections about concerning events or abnormalities that have occurred which led you to suspect abuse or neglect. This information will likely prove useful later and can assist an injury lawyer in pursuing a claim against the responsible parties.

Can I Sue for Nursing Home Neglect?

You can bring a case for nursing home neglect in whichever state your loved one resides. Each state has their own specific procedures for nursing home abuse and neglect cases; some states make legal distinctions between abuse and neglect, giving them separate standards of proof and consequences. Unless you know these standards and the policies governing long-term care facilities in your state, it would be best to speak with a nursing home injury lawyer near you to have your case evaluated and to find out what the procedures and standards are for your state.

What Can I Recover?

Typically, in a personal injury case, compensatory damages will be recovered; compensatory damages comprise both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the actual monetary costs incurred because of an injury or illness, such as medical bills. Non-economic damages cover things like pain and suffering, which cannot be easily measured or counted.

Economic damages can help you recover for any number of out-of-pocket costs you have incurred, including medical bills, mental health therapy, physical therapy, and the costs associated with changing nursing homes or facilities for your loved one. Keep in mind that nursing home neglect lawsuits do not typically make it to trial. Instead, they are often settled out of court before a jury has a chance to hear the case and give a verdict.

How to Find a Lawyer

Finding the right lawyer may seem difficult, but there are plenty of resources available to make the process easier. If those options do not work, you can always find personal injury lawyers through the American Bar Association online. You can also check websites of smaller bar associations within your state to find a lawyer whose office is closer to you.

You should choose a personal injury attorney who has the experience and skill needed to handle your case, and a track record of success in pursing personal injury claims. Zinda Law Group’s nursing home injury lawyers nationwide have experience with nursing home injury claims and an outstanding record of success in handling these matters for our clients.

How Zinda Can Help You

If your loved one has suffered complications due to an untreated UTI in a nursing home, you may feel at a loss over what to do next. Our experienced nursing home injury lawyers at Zinda Law Group can assist you with recovering the costs associated with your loved one’s illness and recovery. Let our professional expertise guide you through the often complex legal system to file your claim in a timely manner and ensure you receive the maximum compensation you are entitled to.

If your loved one has suffered UTI complications due to nursing home neglect, call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our nursing home injury lawyers. We will take care of the legal work so you can focus on yourself and your family during this time of recovery. If we do not win your case, you will not pay any fees; this is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.

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