Greenwich Time

UTI can change body’s thermostat

- Keith Roach, M.D. Readers may email questions to: ToYourGood­Health@med or mail questions to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

Dear Dr. Roach: Iam an 80-year-old man in relatively good health. I don’t smoke or drink, and I have a vegetarian diet. I exercise moderately, and I am not overweight.

About 30 years ago, I contracted a serious UTI that affected me while at work. I was very cold, shivering with chattering teeth.

Luckily, the local fire department was there for a false fire alarm.

One of the EMTs took one look at me and called for an ambulance, and off I went to the local ER. I was diagnosed with a massive UTI and given IV antibiotic­s. Since then, especially in the colder seasons, I am always cold, needing double the clothing. Any thoughts?


Answer: One of the most common causes of sepsis (a syndrome of the body’s response to severe infection that it sounds like you had) are infections that start in the urinary system, often as a consequenc­e of kidney stones or, in men, an enlarged prostate.

Sepsis has persistent adverse effects on the body for years after infection.

The most commonly known are neurologic­al and cognitive, ranging from muscle weakness, to depression and PTSD, to decreased memory and ability to think clearly.

One less well-known effect are changes in temperatur­e regulation. This is clearly reset (at the level of the hypothalam­us, deep in the brain) during the infection, but many people do complain of feeling cold afterward. Thirty years is beyond my experience, though.

Another possibilit­y is weight loss. You mention you are not overweight, but most people lose weight during a severe infection.

Although most put it back on again, loss of a few pounds can certainly affect how cold you feel.

I doubt this is the whole answer, but it may contribute.

The thyroid gland is affected by sepsis as well, usually causing low thyroid levels. You should have had these checked.

Finally, many people get more cold-intolerant as they get older, but it sounds like this was a sudden change when you were still quite young (50 is still pretty young from a medical perspectiv­e).

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