Catheter Care: Preventing an Infection

If you suffer from incontinence, urinary retention, or if a surgical procedure on the bladder, prostate, or genitals is in your near future, you are a likely candidate for catheter use. A catheter is a tube—given or inserted by your health care provider—used to drain urine from the bladder. The two most common varieties are continuous and clean intermittent catheters. The continuous catheter is left in the bladder, while urine collects in a bag. Clean intermittent catherization (CIC) allows you to insert a catheter every time you relieve yourself. Catheters prevent extensive damage by assuring that everything is emptied from the bladder while it is temporarily compromised.


Like most medications or medical devices, catheter usage may include side effects.

  1. You should watch out for painful cramps in the lower abdomen and very dark urine when using a catheter. Those pains in the abdomen or rectum may be due to bladder spasms. The catheter’s irritation to the bladder squeezes it, causing a painful, urgent need to release urine.
  2. Dark urine may also be a sign of bladder stones, which sometimes have no other symptoms. Bladder stones develop when urine remains in the bladder and becomes very concentrated (dark).  Minerals in the urine crystallize when they don’t leave the body, forming hard masses that prevent the bladder from fully emptying. More than 95 percent of people that develop bladder stones are men—especially older men with prostate complications.
  3. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common side effect of catheter use. Symptoms of a UTI include pain or burning during urination, cloudy urine,  and fever,. Caused by bacteria or fungus, an infection can easily be contracted from unhygienic catheter manipulation. Bacteria (from the skin, rectum, or vagina) enter the body through the urethra and get into the bladder. A UTI left untreated can travel to the kidneys and throughout the bloodstream.

If you notice any of these symptoms, fever, or atypically large blood clots in the urine, it is important to contact your physician as soon as possible.


Browse these tips to help decrease the potential risk of infection:

  1. Always wash your hands before and after you touch the catheter. Keep the skin around tubing clean and dry. Any openings in the system between the body and catheter bag are opportunities for germs to invade.
  2. Keep your collection bag below waist level. If the bag moves high, expelled urine may move back into the bladder, causing infection.
  3. Clear your bladder and clean the genital area before and after sex to clear out any bacteria. After urinating, women should always wipe from front to back.
  4. Stay hydrated. Water, soup, and fruit help keep your urinary system healthy and clear. Too much caffeine and alcohol can cause dehydration. When choosing juice, cranberry and pomegranate juice are great options to reduce the occurrence of infection.
  5. Monitor your sodium levels. Too much salt can result in the development of kidney stones or electrolyte imbalance.