For those living with a spinal cord injury (SCI), everyday activities like bladder function can become a major challenge. Catheters provide a solution to that challenge. However, they are also one of the main reasons why people with an SCI have a higher rate of urinary tract infection (UTI). In fact, 57% of people who use uncoated catheters experience more than 4 UTIs per year . These UTIs are not only recurrent but can be incredibly painful.
A urinary tract infection occurs when bad bacteria enters the urinary tract, takes hold, and multiplies. While most UTIs take place in the bladder, the infection can spread to the kidneys and even to the blood if left untreated. This can cause serious, long-term damage.
Why are people with an SCI more prone to urinary tract infections?
- Intermittent catheterization: Catheter use may introduce new bacteria to the urethra.
- Indwelling catheters: This creates a direct pathway that allows bacteria to always be present in the urinary tract.
- Neurogenic bladder: A lack of bladder control is common among people with an SCI. Bacteria can then build up in the bladder and urinary tract.
UTI symptoms are often painful, frustrating and uncomfortable. The most common signs of UTI are a constant urge to urinate, a burning sensation during or after urination, cloudy or bloody urine, and abdominal pain or tenderness. If the infection spreads to the kidneys, patients can experience pain in the back or sides, fever, nausea, or vomiting.
For many people with an SCI, UTIs can be a repetitive issue. Even after treatment, the combination of regular catheter use and the potential for neurogenic bladder make recurrent UTIs an ongoing worry. This can take a toll on an individual’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
The first line of treatment for a UTI is antibiotics. Patients will typically be prescribed 3 to 10 days of pills to target the infection and kill the bad bacteria. However, antibiotics often don’t differentiate between the bacteria, eliminating the good bacteria along with the bad. Antibiotics can also cause a number of potential side effects; such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and indigestion, loss of appetite and abdominal pain.Plus, the continued use of antibiotics for frequent UTIs and other ailments can cause antibiotic resistance. This makes it more difficult to fight off future infections. This is a merry-go-round experience that nobody wants.
There are preventative options that can reduce the prevalence of UTIs and help stop them before they start. The 2019 Canadian Urological guidelines now recommend cranberry with adequate proanthocyanidins (PACs) to prevent recurrent UTIs.
A powerful bioactive found in cranberries, PACs have anti-adhesion properties that stop bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract lining. Studies have shown that PACs can naturally prevent infection and even reduce antibiotic resistance for patients with catheter-induced UTIs.
However, simply drinking cranberry juice won’t do the trick. Doctors recommend cranberry supplements with 36 mg of PACs per day for optimal long-term UTI prevention, which can only be found in specially formulated supplements. One such supplement is Utiva UTI Control.
**Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions regarding a medical condition. SCIO does not endorse any medications, supplements, or vitamins.