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Self-catheterization can increase the potential for urinary tract infections (UTIs). Learn some common-sense ways that men can avoid getting them.
Although they are more common in women, men also get urinary tract infections (UTIs). Sexually transmitted diseases, prostate problems, diabetes, and other medical issues that compromise immunity increase the risk for UTIs. Using a catheter also increases the risk of a UTI. The catheter may allow a direct path for bacteria to enter the bladder, and excessive levels of bacteria can result in an infection.
The male anatomy and UTIs
The good news for men is that the design of their “plumbing” exposes the bladder to fewer entry points or vulnerabilities for bacteria to do harm. A woman’s urethra is much shorter than a man’s and is located close to the vagina and anus, making it more likely for bacteria to enter the urethra and cause an infection.
Although their risk may be lower compared to women, men shouldn’t be complacent about preventing UTIs – especially men who use catheters. It’s vital to practice good hygiene, choose the right catheter, and follow recommended catheterization techniques and guidelines.
The importance of proper positioning and insertion
One common challenge for men who self-catheterize, especially those who are new to the process, is positioning their penis correctly when inserting the catheter. If the insertion is done incorrectly or without proper lubrication, this can result in micro-tears in the urethra which may become entry points for bacteria.
If you are having problems inserting your catheter, you may need a refresher course with your healthcare provider. Work with them to make sure you understand how your penis should be positioned during catheter insertion. The goal is to minimize trauma as the catheter passes through curved portions of your urethra. If the catheter that you use requires manual lubrication, make sure you use the recommended amount of gel or lubricant to avoid dry catheterization.
If you have an enlarged prostate, you may have a more difficult time inserting a straight catheter due to the obstruction. A curved-tip product, called a Coudé catheter, is specially designed to maneuver around the tight bends found in a narrow urethra for men with an enlarged prostate (or with urethra scarring, which can also make it difficult to self-catheterize).
In the past, catheters were considered universal for men and women, but now you can find continence products that acknowledge the differences between male and female anatomy, and the challenges they pose.
Since the male urethra is longer than the female counterpart, male catheters typically come in longer lengths and in a variety of sizes. Talk to your healthcare provider about the ideal catheter for you.
Other ways to prevent UTIs
Men who use catheters can also avoid UTIs by following these hygiene guidelines:
By practicing good hygiene, choosing the right catheter, and using the right positioning and insertion techniques you can minimize your risk of UTIs and have greater peace of mind.
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