Catheters and UTIs: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

By far, urinary tract infections are the most common complication caused by catheter use. Sometimes called CAUTIs, catheter-associated urinary tract infections can lead to other problems, like kidney infections, meningitis and other life-threatening conditions.

Here’s a quick primer on CAUTIs and what you can do to prevent them.

The Most Common Symptoms of a UTI

In order to get effective treatment for a UTI, you need to notify your doctor as as soon as you start to see signs of an infection. And in order to do that, you need to know the symptoms:
  • Foul odor
  • Cloudy urine
  • Urine leakage around the catheter (if indwelling)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Vomiting
  • Discomfort, pain or pressure in the abdomen or lower back
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Fever

Causes of Catheter-Associated UTIs

UTIs are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria or fungus in the urinary tract. Catheters create unique circumstances that make UTIs more likely. Depending on the catheterization method, that bacteria can come from the skin or the urine:
  • When a catheter isn’t cleaned or removed often enough, that creates an environment where bacteria can grow.
  • For catheter users who use a collection bag, it’s possible for urine to flow back into the bladder due to its position or from leaving it in too long.

Preventing Catheter-Associated UTIs

Depending on your condition and circumstances, there are some risk factors for CAUTIs that may be out of your control, such as pregnancy or a weakened immune system. There are however, some things you can control:
  • Follow your routine as instructed by your doctor. We can’t stress this enough. Clean it as recommended. Change it as recommended.
  • Keep your hands, catheter and genitalia clean.
  • Take all proper precautions before and after sexual activity.
  • Stay on top of your fluid intake – especially water.
  • Keep your collection bag lower than your bladder.
  • Avoid foods that irritate the bladder.

Be Extra Careful with Indwelling Catheters

Indwelling catheters are most likely to cause UTIs. Because of this, it’s important to keep the area the catheter and the skin surrounding the catheter insertion clean. Fluid intake is also crucial.

Bowel Care Impacts Urinary Health

Bowel care can have a major impact on urinary tract infections. It’s important to keep fecal matter away from the urethra. Also, constipation can put pressure on the bladder. For those with indwelling catheters, this pressure can stop the bladder from emptying into the catheter or cause urine to leak from the urethra.
No matter what kind of catheter you use, it’s important to be vigilant about your routine. It’s not always convenient, but being sidelined by a (sometimes) preventable infection is a bigger inconvenience.
The recommendations and information in this material are not medical advice. Contact your healthcare professional for personal medical advice or diagnosis.

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