Catheters and Non-Specific Urethritis

Non-Specific Urethritis Treatment

One of the potential causes of non-specific urethritis is injury to the urethra, which can induce a response from the body’s defences which ultimately results in the inflammation of the affected structure. In this article we look at a fairly common cause of the injury that can lead to non-specific urethritis or NSU, namely urinary catheterization.

Urinary catheterization

Urinary catheterization is a medical technique in which a specially designed tube made out of silicone, polyurethane, or latex is inserted into the bladder to allow for the free drainage of urine into an attached artificial bladder.

There are a huge range of different modern catheter technologies, all with their own distinctive advantages and drawbacks, but generally speaking they will all involve the same basic mechanism of inserting a tube and draining the urine into an appropriate vessel.

The catheter tube needs to be inserted through the urethra to access the bladder. The urethra itself is a biological tube which normally works as the means by which we pass urine out from our bladders. Catheters are needed in instances where a person is unable to urinate normally for a variety of different medical reasons. In some cases this could be because of urinary incontinence, a condition during which a person is sometimes unable to control their urination. In others it could be for the opposite reason, referred to as urinary retention, where a person can’t empty their bladder when they need to. Surgical procedures on the genital area or on the prostate in men can affect bladder control and function. And finally a number of neurological injuries and conditions, including dementia and paralysis, can affect a person’s ability to urinate as and when necessary. In all of these cases the use of a urinary catheter may be advised.

Inserting a catheter into the urethra can be painful, particularly for men as will be discussed in the next section. The procedure is performed by trained medical professionals who will lubricate the catheter tube to reduce the chances of injury or damage to the urethra. Unfortunately despite these safeguards, there is still a risk of urethral damage which would cause non-specific urethritis.

Differences in male and female catheters

Anatomical differences between male and female urethra means that catheter insertion, and therefore the risk of urethritis, varies according to gender. While the insertion itself can be complicated in women, it carries with it a lower risk of injury to the urethra when compared to the male procedure provided it is performed by an experienced clinician. Because the catheter tube is inserted into the penis to access the urethra, male catheterization is known to be quite painful. Moreover because of male anatomy there is also an increased risk of bladder spasms and urethral injury.

NSU caused by catheters

Because catheterization is performed carefully and at the hands of skilled experts, injury is generally avoided. A topical anaesthetic is often applied to spare patients, particularly male ones, the pain involved in catheterization. Short term catheterizations used for surgeries and the like will often have a much lower risk of urethritis associated with them.

The chances of NSU caused by catheterization increase where multiple or long term catheterization is needed. This is why catheterization is generally avoided for long term urinary incontinence. The risk of injury is also increased where a person is applying the catheter themselves.

Fortunately many modern catheters don’t necessarily require the invasive insertion of a tube into the urethra, and there are a number of alternatives which can not only reduce the risk of NSU, but also improve the general comfort and usability of urinary catheters.

If you are using a catheter regularly and/or self-catheterizing, there are steps you can take to not only reduce the risks of injury and infection to the urethra, but improve the comfort and overall safety of catheter usage. These include regularly cleaning the catheter itself, keeping your hands and urethral region clean, and keeping the drainage bag or bladder clean as well. Using a thin catheterization tube will also reduce the risk of injury and NSU as it will place less stress on the urethral walls.

NSU caused by catheter insertion is also treated with antibiotics as there is often an infectious component to the condition. The symptoms should pass within 2 weeks of receiving treatment, and if they do not you should consult your doctor and seek further treatment as it is possible that there is another underlying infection. The symptoms of the condition can be painful, particularly in men, but using over the counter anti-inflammatories and pain killers like ibuprofen and immersing your genitals in a warm bath can help manage the condition.

Thanks to improvements in catheter technologies the incidences of NSU as a result of urinary catheterization have been vastly reduced. That being said, if you are making use of a catheter it is important to take care when doing to so to spare yourself the pain and discomfort that can occur as a result of NSU.

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