As the US ratchets up military strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin languishes in a Walter Reed hospital room recovering from a urinary tract infection (UTI) that occurred as a result of prostate cancer surgery. It has been widely reported that Austin is orchestrating US military actions and is coordinating air strikes in response to hostility by the terrorist group in the Red Sea while hospitalized. Considering his high-level responsibility, which includes choreographing American military maneuvers, there has been an odd silence in the news media regarding one of the most prominent symptoms of UTIs in the elderly – mental confusion and delirium.
Lloyd Austin: Are there Mental Complications?
Across the web, most medical sites acknowledge a troubling array of mental health issues as symptoms of UTI in elderly patients. For example, Aging Care lists many psychological symptoms that manifest concurrently with a UTI, including “confusion, memory loss, trouble concentrating, lethargy, hallucinations, delusions, restlessness or agitation, violent behavior or yelling.”
A National Institutes of Health study – often considered the gold standard in US medical research – concluded: “It is difficult to ascertain the degree to which urinary tract infections cause delirium.” However, the study results showed, “In subjects with delirium, UTI rates ranged from 25.9% to 32% compared to 13% in those without delirium. In subjects with UTI, delirium rates ranged from 30% to 35%, compared to 7.7% to 8% in those without UTI.”
Medical researchers are baffled by the link but have often used the criteria of “mental confusion, delirium or disorientation” to determine whether an elderly patient (defined as 70 or above) is suffering from a urinary tract infection. “Although the connection between UTI and confusion has been established, the reason for this connection is still unknown,” Healthline reports.
Austin has come under fire for keeping his health condition and its subsequent complications from elective prostate cancer surgery a secret. As his hospitalization continued, neither his doctors nor the media has yet to mention whether Austin has experienced associated mental health issues at the onset or during his time at Walter Reed.
BMC Geriatrics conducted a study that stated in the opening paragraph of its abstract: “Non-specific symptoms, such as confusion, are often suspected to be caused by urinary tract infection (UTI) and continues to be the most common reason for suspecting a UTI despite many other potential causes.” Its conclusion, however, was that “Current evidence appears insufficient to accurately determine if UTI and confusion are associated …” However, just because they cannot find a nexus does not mean there isn’t one. Even the Mayo Clinic lists UTIs as a possible cause of delirium in elderly patients.
Certainly, everyone deserves a level of privacy regarding their health; however, serving as a public official – Secretary of Defense, no less – is a mitigating factor in keeping things under wraps. None of this proves that Lloyd Austin has suffered mental issues as a result of a urinary tract infection – but considering his position and level of responsibility, the American public has a right to know these symptoms are often associated with his condition. His mental health is arguably even more critical to carrying out his duties than a compromised physical state. One wonders whether the UTI/mental health connections weren’t the real reason for Lloyd Austin’s lack of transparency in the first place.