People who experience urinary incontinence manage it in different ways. Some people choose to use incontinence briefs, while others prefer urinary catheters. Both options have pros and cons. However, a significant issue for catheter users is the increased likelihood of contracting a urinary tract infection (UTI).
If you use or plan to use a catheter, then you need to know what to expect and what you can do to lower your risk of a UTI. This guide will help you by covering everything you need to know about catheter UTIs.
Which Catheters Are Prone to UTIs?
First, let’s discuss which catheters are more prone to this issue. In general, indwelling catheters are the ones more likely to lead to a UTI. This is because they typically stay in place for up to a month at a time. Therefore, using an intermittent catheter will lower your risk of contracting a UTI, but it won’t make you immune to one. No matter what type of catheter you use, UTIs are possibilities.
What Are the Causes of UTIs?
More important than avoiding UTI-prone catheters is knowing the causes of catheter-associated UTIs. These infections occur when bacteria get trapped in your urethra. These bacteria can come from inside the body or from external sources.
Therefore, if you don’t fully empty your bladder or some of your urine gets trapped in the catheter, it can stagnate and cause bacteria to form. Also, if the catheter you put in wasn’t sterile before insertion, outside bacteria could make their way into your urethra.
What Symptoms Should You Watch For?
You can know bacteria has taken hold inside your urethra if you experience certain symptoms. Here’s a list of some of the more common UTI symptoms you should keep an eye out for:
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Foul urine odor
- Cloudy or miscolored urine
- Bloody urine
- Pain when urinating
That last symptom is the most well known and is the one most associated with UTIs. However, not everyone with a UTI will experience pain when urinating, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for the other symptoms. Furthermore, some of the other symptoms could be signs of other urinary tract problems, so it’s important to consult with your doctor to determine the root cause of the issue.
Are There Tests To Check for UTIs?
If you experience any of the common symptoms, your doctor can confirm or deny the presence of a UTI with a couple of tests.
The first test is a urinalysis. This is the process of taking a sample of your urine to a lab for closer examination. Medical professionals will look at it on a microscopic level to determine if your urine is miscolored or cloudy. These symptoms aren’t always visible to the naked eye, so a closer inspection is usually necessary.
Chemical tests can also help find these problems if a microscopic analysis comes back negative. And if the urinalysis doesn’t give you any answers, your doctor could use an ultrasound or CT scan to discover your potential UTI.
Once you know you have a UTI, you’ll move on to the second test, which is a urine culture. Doctors use this test to determine the type of bacteria that has caused your UTI. This information will help your doctor better determine what kind of antibiotic to prescribe to you.
What Are Your Treatment Options?
Speaking of antibiotics, let’s look at treatment options for a UTI. Most of the time, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics that come in pill form. These will help knock out the infection in no time. However, even if your symptoms subside before you’ve finished all the pills, you should continue to take them. Failing to do so could allow the UTI to return.
If the UTI is more severe, your doctor might prescribe injection-based antibiotics. These will go straight into your veins, allowing for a more direct approach to tackling your infection.
In addition to antibiotics, you should drink lots of fluids during this time. This will help flush out any leftover bacteria from your system. Just make sure you avoid liquids that can irritate your bladder, such as caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. These might make your UTI worse.
Also, to ensure complete recovery from your UTI, you might need to use catheters less often or not at all. If you currently use indwelling catheters, switching to intermittent ones should help with the issue if you don’t wear them all day. And if you want to ensure you’re fully protected during this time, temporarily using incontinence briefs is also an option. Either way, consult with your doctor to determine which choice you should go with.
How Can You Prevent UTIs?
While all this information is good to know, the most important thing to be aware of about catheter UTIs is that there are many ways to prevent them. Whether you’re working on getting rid of a UTI or simply being proactive in your attempt to stop them, these tips should help keep this condition from surfacing.
Proper hygiene is the best way to prevent future UTIs. While washing your hands after inserting a catheter is important, scrubbing them beforehand is just as crucial. Bacteria on your hands can get onto your catheter before insertion, causing them to infect your urethra. In fact, this is the number one way that intermittent catheter users get UTIs.
Cleaning around the opening of your urethra before insertion is also crucial. This area can get dirty, and the catheter could push bacteria in if you don’t wash it beforehand.
Maintain Proper Usage Techniques
Since UTIs typically occur when urine builds up in your urethra, it’s important to ensure you maintain proper usage techniques. Allowing your drainage bag to overfill will cause urine to back up into the urethra, making UTIs easier to develop. And even if your bag is close to empty, keeping the bag higher than your bladder can cause this type of backup as well. Therefore, empty your drainage bag often and strap it to your leg or set it on the ground at night.
Use the Right Supplies
Finally, make sure you’re using the right supplies for your personal needs. Catheters come in many shapes and sizes, so you must ensure the type you use comfortably fits you. For instance, men and women require different catheter lengths. If you’re a man experiencing incontinence, then you want to exclusively buy men’s catheter supplies. For more information, resources, and support, browse our website or contact us—we’re here to help!