A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that occurs within a part of the urinary system such as the kidneys, bladder, ureters, or urethra. Individuals using catheters have an increased chance of developing UTIs because of the increased possibility of bacteria entering the urethra during insertion.
The threat of a UTI is most prominent in patients using indwelling catheters due to the prolonged period of time that these specific catheters are inside the bladder. However, if proper precautions are not used when inserting intermittent catheters or when applying external catheters, UTIs can also occur.
While UTIs are common in individuals using catheters, there are measures you can take to help prevent an infection from developing. Follow the guidelines below to lessen your chance of contracting a UTI.
- Prior to catheter insertion, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. If desired, you may wear gloves during self-catheterization to prevent the spread of bacteria.
- If you’re using an indwelling catheter, clean the area around the catheter each day with soap and warm water.
- If you’re using a drainage bag, empty the bag regularly to prevent urine from backflowing into the bladder.
- When using an intermittent catheter, the catheter should be removed as soon as possible after urine is expelled.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water each day.
It is also important to recognize symptoms of a UTI so treatment can begin immediately. Symptoms of a UTI are:
- Burning with urination
- Frequent urgency to urinate
- Cloudy, foul-smelling, or bloody urine
- Fever or chills
- Lower abdominal pain or pelvic pressure
Symptoms of a UTI may not be as prevalent in the elderly. Hypothermia, poor appetite, lethargy, or a change in mental status can be signs of a UTI in older adults.
If you have any of these symptoms or believe you have a UTI, contact your doctor immediately. UTIs have the potential to make you extremely ill if the bacteria from the infection spreads into your bloodstream.