This piece has been medically reviewed by Susie Gronski, PT, DPT, Medical Advisor to Aeroflow Urology.
If you use an intermittent catheter, you’re probably aware of catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), but another complication that can occur when inserting and removing your catheter is urethritis.
Find out what urethritis is and how to prevent it with these tips.
What Is Urethritis?
Urethritis is the irritation or inflammation of the urethra that can lead to infection.
Your urethra is the tube that runs from your bladder to the outside of your body and is the area where you insert your intermittent catheter. There are three types of urethritis that are commonly seen:
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- Gonococcal urethritis: Caused by gonorrhea.
- Nongonococcal urethritis (NGU): Caused by something other than an STI, such as intermittent catheter use.
- Non-specific urethritis (NSU): Unknown cause of urethritis.
In this post, we’ll be focusing on NGU.
Symptoms of urethritis include:
- Pain while peeing.
- Pain during sex.
- Itching of the urethra.
- Urethral discharge, such as pus or blood.
- Pelvic pain.
- Urinary urgency.
- Muscle aches.
- General malaise.
- Pain while inserting or removing your intermittent catheter.
It's important to note that urethritis is different from a urinary tract infection (UTI); Urethritis is inflammation of your urethra and a UTI is an infection of your urinary tract.
Intermittent Catheters & Urethritis
The cause of urethritis for intermittent catheter users falls under three categories.
- Using improper insertion technique. If you are inserting your intermittent catheter incorrectly, you may cause irritation to your urethra.
- Poor lubrication. Intermittent catheters that are not lubricated properly can cause friction when inserting and removing them, irritating your urethra.
- Existing urethral stricture. A urethral stricture is scarring that may make intermittent catheter insertion more difficult because it makes your urethra more narrow. If a urethral stricture already exists while you are self-catheterizing, more friction may be placed on your urethra, leading to irritation.
To prevent urethritis from occurring when you self-catheterize, use these tips.
1. Learn to Self-Catheterize Properly
Self-catheterization is a process that takes some getting used to. Use this quick guide to catheterize.
- Make sure you have all of your catheterization supplies. This could be your intermittent catheter, a moist towelette, a dry sanitary towel, lubrication packets, and soap and water.
- Wash your hands. Keeping clean while self-catheterizing is crucial to the health of your urinary system. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry them with a clean towel.
- Check for damage. Take a look to see if your intermittent catheter has been opened or damaged. If it has, dispose of it and get a new one.
4. Insert your catheter. For a more detailed male or female guide on self-catheterization, use our downloadable guides.
5. Empty your bladder completely. Keep your catheter inserted until pee is no longer flowing out of the tube.
6. Clean up. Dispose of your intermittent catheter and wash your hands with soap and water again.
2. Use Hydrophilic Catheters
Some intermittent catheters do not come pre-lubricated, but instead, come with a lubrication packet. Hydrophilic catheters come coated to prevent things like urethritis and UTIs and to make insertion go more smoothly. If you experience urethritis, try a hydrophilic catheter to lessen friction upon insertion. You may be eligible to receive hydrophilic intermittent catheters through your insurance plan and Aeroflow Urology. See if you qualify today with our Eligibility Form.
3. Use Enough Lubricant
If you use uncoated intermittent catheters that come with lubrication packets, make sure you’re adding enough lubrication to your catheter before inserting it into your urethra. You should be coating 2 inches of the tip of your catheter with lubricant.
4. Use the Right Type of Lubricant
It’s essential that you use the right type of lubrication on your intermittent catheter. Use the lubricant that comes in your packet or what comes on your hydrophilic catheter. Don’t ever use other lubricants, such as petroleum jelly, because they are non-soluble.
5. Make Sure Your Sizing Is Correct
The size of your intermittent catheter is essential to self-catheterization. There are two terms you should familiarize yourself with regarding size.
- French size: This is the diameter of the catheter tube. The greater the number is, the larger the diameter of your catheter tube is. If you’re using a catheter with a French size that is too small, you may experience leakage, and if your French size is too large, it will cause friction and discomfort upon insertion and removal.
- Catheter length: Your intermittent catheter length should be long enough to reach your bladder comfortably. Most catheters are around 16 inches long.
6. Visit Your Healthcare Provider
Regular visits to your healthcare provider are important if you’re experiencing symptoms of urethritis. Your provider will also be able to treat your urethritis and determine its cause.
7. Try Different Catheter Tip Styles
There are two different tip styles of intermittent catheters:
- Straight tip: The catheter is straight end-to-end.
- Coude tip: This intermittent catheter tip has a curved or bent end for easier insertion.
If you’re experiencing urethritis with a straight-tip intermittent catheter, you may want to speak with your healthcare provider or experiment with a coude tip catheter for easier insertion.
8. Learn About Your Anatomy
To avoid urethritis, you should learn about your anatomy. This includes learning about your:
- Prostate (if applicable).
- Penile tissue (if applicable).
- Urinary sphincters.
- Pelvic floor muscles.
9. Get a Support System
Make sure you establish a support system (healthcare provider, caregiver, family, partner, etc.) to ask for guidance and help when it's needed.
Get Catheters Covered by Insurance
If you use intermittent catheters or other catheter supplies, you may be eligible to receive your products through your Medicare or other private insurance plan with Aeroflow Urology.
We provide the highest quality intermittent catheters and more and deliver them straight to your door every month. To see if you qualify, fill out our Eligibility Form. One of our expert Continence Care Specialists will reach out to your doctor on your behalf for a prescription. They’ll also send you free samples so you can find the intermittent catheter that will prevent urethritis and other issues.
Urethritis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22858-urethritis
webmaster. (2019, October 8). Common Intermittent Catheterization Complications. CompactCath. https://www.compactcath.com/blog/complications-intermittent-catheterization-causes-prevention-treatments/#:~:text=Why%20it%20happens%3A%20incorrect%20intermittent
Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology website is not intended as a substitute to medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.