Urinary Tract Infections

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are about 3 million cases of urinary tract infections reported in the US each year making it a very common diagnosis in the general population. Certain groups of individuals including those with spinal cord diseases or injuries, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, prostate problems, those on a catheter program and others are at a higher risk of getting urinary tract infections.

Common symptoms of urinary tract infections include cloudy urine, foul smelling urine, fever, chills, nausea, headache, and a general discomfort in the lower abdominal area. Individuals with sensation in the urinary tract may have a burning sensation on urination. Further, individuals with spinal cord disease or injuries may experience autonomic dysreflexia, increased spasms, the need to catheterize more, and/or blood in the urine. Often, high risk individuals develop a keen awareness of the symptoms of a UTI and are quite informed about seeking treatment.

Master Cathing Techniques

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before you catheterize.
  • Clean the urethral area well before you catheterize.
  • Make sure that you do not touch the tip of the catheter or allow it to touch anything before it is inserted.
  • Use plenty of lubricant to minimize urethral irritation.
  • Store your catheters and lubricant in a cool area.
  • Slowly withdraw your catheter to allow the bladder to drain as completely as possible.
  • Catheterize on a schedule.

Use a New Catheter Every Time Your Catheterize

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies intermittent catheters as single-use only and it is marked on every intermittent catheter package sold in the US.  Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA all cover a new catheter every time you catheterize because of the cost associated with urinary tract infections.

Use a Catheter Insertion Kit Every Time You Catheterize

Catheter Insertion Kits are packaged individually or with a catheter included.  The kit usually includes a BZK or povidone iodine wipes or swabsticks, gloves, underpad, lubricating jelly, and a collection container. They are designed minimize the presence of bacteria at the urethral opening thereby minimizing the number of bacteria that can ride the tip of the catheter into the bladder.

Use a Closed System

There ae many closed systems available each with its own claims about results.  There is scientific evidence to suggest that the use of closed systems will reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections.  Medicare, Medicaid, and some private insurance companies do cover closed systems; however, they require a significant history of UTIs with fever and other symptoms.

Drink Cranberry Juice or Use Cranberry Extract 

Cranberry juice has been advocated as effective in preventing UTIs. Recommended daily intake can be up to three glasses per day.  In a UTI, bacteria colonize on the wall of the bladder forming a bacterial film that can become pathogenic. Cranberry juice is thought to make it hard for the bacteria to stick to the bladder wall thereby making it difficult to colonize and form a bacterial film.  There are a couple of things to consider:  first, some in the medical establishment support the use of cranberry juice while others do not; second, the cost of drinking cranberry juice for a year can be significant. Discuss this with your doctor. If there is no apparent contraindication, it may be worth a try.