Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the second most common infection in the body, and in some cases, it can lead to serious problems if left untreated or not recognized. Urinary tract infections are most commonly an infection in the bladder, a part of the urinary system that stores urine until it is ready to exit the body. In more severe cases, the kidneys can also become infected because of a urinary tract infection. More rarely, other parts of the urinary system can also become infected from UTIs. In the most basic sense, bacteria is what causes this uncomfortable infection, and women get urinary tract infections more commonly than men, due to women having shorter urethras (a part of the urinary system that connects the bladder and where urine exits the body).
Symptoms and further complications because of a urinary tract infection are dependent on where the infection is located in the urinary system. Urinary tract infections in the bladder can lead to symptoms such as a strong, persistent urge to urinate; burning when urinating; cloudy urine; blood in the urine; and pelvic pain, especially in women. Infection of the bladder specifically can cause symptoms such as blood in the urine, discomfort in the lower abdomen, and pelvic pressure. A UTI in the urethra, while rare, can result in symptoms such as discharge and burning with urination to occur.
In the most serious form, infection in the kidneys can lead to nausea; vomiting; upper back and side pain; shaking and chills; and high fever. If the infection does reach one or both of the kidneys, the bacteria can cause damage that will permanently reduce kidney function. Especially in individuals who experience kidney problems already, this is quite a serious problem. In the worst situation with the smallest chance, the infection can also reach the bloodstream through the kidneys, which allows the bacteria to potentially reach other organs.
Because urinary tract infections in the bladder are common to happen, knowing how to prevent UTIs is important. Below are 5 ways to reduce these infections:
1. Refrain from using the same catheter more than once.
Although sterilizing / washing and reusing catheters may work for some individuals, the majority of people experience recurring urinary tract infections when catheters are reused. Using a urinary catheter one time and disposing of it can reduce urinary tract infections significantly. Luckily, most major insurance companies, such as Medicaids, Medicare, and even VA, cover sterile and single-use catheters. Reusing catheters and using indwelling catheters can often lead to infections, which can cost insurance companies more.
2. Hydrophilic catheters can be the answer to reduce infections.
These types of catheters help you avoid discomfort and infection by lessening friction and injury to the urethra, which can occur with other types of catheters. Unlike conventional catheters, hydrophilic catheters have a surface that remains smooth and slippery all the way from insertion to withdrawal, due to a layer of lubrication that is bound to the catheter surface and water-activated. Since the pre-lubricated coating is activated by sterile water, there is no need to touch it, which reduces the risk of contamination that can arise because of stray bacteria or pathogens that may be on your hands.
3. Use catheters that have an introducer tip attached, such as a closed system catheter.
Most closed systems have an additional safety feature known as an introducer or insertion tip. The introducer tip permits the pre-lubricated urinary catheter to bypass the highest concentrations of bacteria found in the first few millimeters of the urethra, rather than pushing the bacteria further into the urethra whilst inserting the catheter. This will help fight against and prevent urinary tract infections.
4. Catheterizing correctly is key.
Learning and knowing how to catheterize correctly can help avoid irritation and infections, such as UTIs, that can occur when a technique is executed incorrectly. Your doctor or primary care nurse can help and show you how to catheterize properly once you are comfortable with a catheter. They can also show you how to keep the equipment sterile for usage.
5. Use insertion supplies.
Insertion supplies are conveniently packaged along with the urinary catheter in most closed system kits, many hydrophilic catheters, and some intermittent catheters to assist in creating a disinfected environment. Insertion supplies usually comprise of benzalkonium chloride wipes, sterile gloves, an underpad, and a col.