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Top 5 Healthy Self-Catheterization Tips

Clean self intermittent catheterization is regularly practiced by people with urinary retention, neurogenic bladder, or have undergone urinary diversion surgeries

Although intermittent catheters give people with bladder dysfunctions greater mobility and independence, it is still associated with complications such as CAUTI (catheter-associated UTI), hematuria, and urethral stricture

To help you minimize your chance of developing complications from intermittent-catheterization, here are the top 5 tips you need to know

5 Self-Catheterization Tips

1. Avoid catheter contamination

When bacteria gets on the catheter and the catheter is inserted into the bladder, it can lead to a UTI. Catheter contamination is one of the most common causes of catheter-associated UTI. To prevent this: 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. Many people think this step is simple, but they might be doing it wrong. To properly wash your hands, you need at least 20 seconds to thoroughly scrub not just your palms, but the back of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers, and underneath your fingernails. Here is a video from Johns Hopkins Medicine on the proper techniques of handwashing. 
  • Clean urethral opening. If there are bacteria on your urethral opening, the catheter can push it into your urinary tract, causing a UTI. Use antiseptic wipes to thoroughly clean your urethral opening.
  • Use no-touch catheter. A no-touch catheter is designed so that you don’t have to touch the part of the catheter that goes inside your body. This greatly reduce the risk of bacteria transferring from your hands. 
  • Never reuse single-use catheter. A lot of intermittent catheters on the market are designed to be used once and disposed of. Never reuse them because you’ll likely get an infection. If you have reusable catheters, be sure to properly disinfect them every time before use. However, study has suggested that because people can make mistakes when disinfecting their reusable catheters, sterile, single-use catheters may be a better choice. 
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2. Don’t hurt yourself 

Sometimes self-catheterization can lead to pain, bleeding (hematuria), and urethral trauma. As the result of urethral trauma, scar tissue can form on the urethral wall, narrowing the urethra and making future catheterization more difficult. 

To prevent this:

  • Apply sufficient lubrication. Lubrication reduces the friction between the catheters and the urethral wall as you insert and remove the catheters. Having sufficient lubrication is vital to preventing micro-tears along the urethral. You can lubricate your catheters with K-Y jelly, or use pre-lubricated catheters such as hydrophilic catheters or catheters coated with anti-bacterial silicone oil. 
  • Never force a catheter. A catheter should glide in smoothly when you insert it. If it feels stuck, don’t push it in. Take it out, wait a few minutes, then try again. Get into positions that are relaxing for you. If your bladder is full and you are still unable to catheterize, you should go to the emergency room. 
  • Use catheters that fit your body the best. To avoid unnecessary friction, try not to use catheters whose size is too big. Catheters that are too rigid can also lead to bleeding and pain. Most catheter companies stock a variety of sizes, but rigidity level differs between each line of catheter. Try a few and find a size and rigidity level that feels the most comfortable for you. 

3. Empty regularly

Even when your bladder is not full, if you go a long time without catheterizing, the bacteria in your urine has more time to multiply in your bladder, which can lead to infections. 

A good rule of thumb is to catheterize 4-6 times daily to avoid urine accumulation. If you’re unsure about the frequency at which you should be catheterizing, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor!

4. Empty completely

Similar to not emptying regularly, not emptying completely causes bacteria to stay and multiple in your bladder. For adults, they can push the catheter 2 inches in after urine starts draining, and wait till all urine drains out. Proceed to pull out slowly, and if more urine drains out, hold the catheter till urine has emptied. 

5. Don’t forget to hydrate

Drinking too little fluids can increase your risk of UTIs since you’re not frequently flushing bacteria out of your bladder.  The recommended fluid intake is about 2.7 liters per day for women, and 3.7 liters per day for men. If you often forget to drink water, here are some tips to drink more water

Bonus recommendation: 

Try an intermittent catheter that is compact, discreet, and pre-lubricated with anti-bacterial silicone oil. 

A compact, pocket-sized catheter serves the same function as a regular catheter except it relieves you the anxiety of catheterizing in public.

A pre-lubricated catheter saves the time of applying lubricants yourself. Furthermore, silicone oil has been found to be anti-bacterial, and it doesn’t drip like some hydrophilic catheters when it is used as a lubricant. 

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*This article is not intended to substitute formal medical advise. Please consult your doctor on your individual health circumstance.