Urology - What are urinary tract infections?

When you have an infection in your urethra, kidneys or bladder, it is called a urinary tract infection (UTI). While urinary tract infections are common, they can pose a serious health risk that may require medical treatment.


People who are using catheters need to take special care to avoid developing urinary tract infections. In fact, people who use certain types of catheters, such as an indwelling catheter (also called Foley catheters), are more prone to develop a UTI, especially if the catheter has been in place for a long period of time. A lower incidence of urinary tract infections has been found with intermittent catheters when compared to other options, such as indwelling catheters. Within the intermittent line of catheters, there is an even lower incidence of UTIs with the use of closed-system catheters, which reduce the chance of introducing bacteria into the bladder, limit hand contact with the catheter itself and drain directly into a bag.


Some common symptoms of urinary tract infections:

  • More frequent urination
  • Leakage of urine between normal urination or catheterization
  • Bladder spasms or pelvic area pain
  • Fever
  • Back pain
  • Urine that is cloudy, milky, dark or foul smelling
  • Blood in the urine 



Treating urinary tract infections

You should let your doctor know right away if you are experiencing symptoms of a UTI. He or she will be able to perform urine tests to confirm the diagnosis. Often, oral antibiotics are prescribed to treat UTIs. Your catheter will need to be changed when you have a UTI. Also, changing the type of catheter you’re using may bring some relief.



Tips to prevent UTIs when using catheters

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after coming in contact with urine
  • Clean around the catheter insertion opening (urethra) daily
  • Keep your bottom clean, especially after bowel movements
  • Empty your drainage bag regularly
  • Make sure to keep your urine drainage bag lower than your bladder to prevent urine from going back into the urethra
  • Consider changing your catheter type



Related articles:
Common questions and answers about urinary catheters
Three reasons you should avoid reusing catheters
Catheters and health care coverage