Urinary tract infections can be painful and dangerous—and all too common for many people with spinal cord injuries (SCI). Whether you’re new to catheterization, or an old pro, these simple precautions will help minimize your risk of urinary tract infections (UTI).
A UTI can be an unexpected guest and unwelcome guest, and people with spinal cord injuries are known to be susceptible to recurrent infections. In fact, according to one study Siroky MB. Pathogenesis of bacteriuria and infection in the spinal cord injured patient. Am J Med. 2002 Jul 8. 113 Suppl 1A:67S-79S , the overall incidence of urinary tract infection in people with SCI is 2.5 cases per year.” Because of neurogenic bladder and the need for intermittent catheterization, you are more likely than most people to get bacteria in your urine. A change in voiding dynamics coupled with frequent exposure to antibiotic agents can also predispose you to recurrent infections, often with resistant organisms.
And there’s more: beyond just UTIs, not taking care of your bladder can lead to kidney and bladder problems, sepsis, and, in rare cases, kidney failure. There’s now wonder that good bladder management is key to improved health and quality of life.
The following precautions could help you nab recurring urinary tract infections, before they happen.
Get enough fluids.
Every person needs daily fluids to maintain their health- drinking 6-8 glasses of fluids each day is the usual recommended amount, but it is not for everyone.
You should first consult with your healthcare provider to determine the amount that is best for you based on your individual medical condition(s). Beverages containing caffeine (cola, coffee, tea and some energy drinks) and artificial sweeteners are known bladder irritants and may need to be kept to a minimum.
Drinking lots of water dilutes the urine and flushes bacteria out of the bladder. If you regularly empty your bladder as directed by your healthcare provider, you may remove urine with potential bacteria each time you catheterize. Make sure you drain the bladder completely each time.
Maintain good personal hygiene.
Always wash your hands thoroughly – especially before you use your intermittent catheter. Also, carefully clean around the urethral opening before inserting the catheter.
Bacteria from improper hand washing, or bacteria near the urethral opening, can be introduced into the urinary tract when using a catheter.
Regularly empty your bladder completely as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Maintaining your catheterization schedule may help in the prevention of urinary tract infections.
Staying on a regular schedule and emptying your bladder completely with intermittent catheterization, reduces the amount of urine sitting in the bladder and the time that urine is left to sit stagnant in your bladder Each time you catheterize you remove urine in the bladder along with any bacteria that may be present.
Every once in a while, measure the amount of urine you empty. The goal is to keep the catheterized urine at a volume (400ml) which avoids overstretching the bladder and prevents leaking. If you empty more than this amount, ask your healthcare provider if you need to use intermittent catheterization more often.
Use a sterile catheter every time you catheterize.
Use a new, sterile, well-lubricated (hydrophilic coated or pre-lubricated) catheter, time you catheterize to lessen friction as you insert and remove your catheter.
A well-lubricated, (hydrophilic coated or pre-lubricated) catheter may make the process more comfortable and may lessen the friction during insertion and withdrawal of the catheter.
Catheters can be expensive but you may be eligible for coverage. If you are not already covered, Coloplast can help.