My name is Bill, and I have worked for 180 Medical for over 10 years. About 26 years ago, I was involved in a motocross accident that rendered me quadriplegic. You can learn more about my story here. Over the years since then, I've been able to use my experiences to help and counsel others who are also dealing with life after a spinal cord injury. I am happiest when I am helping others, and these days at 180 Medical, I spend a lot of time talking to our customers on the phone who are new to self-catheterizing.
There are a lot of people who use intermittent catheters and mainly rely on their general practitioner for their checkups and healthcare needs. While this is perfectly fine, it may be a good idea to see a urologist annually for a more thorough checkup. Since urologists specialize in conditions relating to the entire urinary system as well as the male reproductive organs, they may be able to better pinpoint issues that your general practitioner might not catch.
What to Expect at an Annual Exam with a UrologistSeeing a urologist may seem intimidating at first, but generally, an annual exam is fairly simple and could be potentially life-saving, depending on what symptoms you may be experiencing. There are various procedures that your urologist may use to check for any abnormalities or potential issues, including growths, infections, or stones.
Some tests or examinations that you may be able to expect, depending upon what the doctor thinks is necessary for your individual situation, may include:
- A physical exam
- A urine specimen
- A cystoscopy (where the lower urinary tract is examined with a mini camera)
- Imaging studies (ultrasound or x-ray, most typically)
- A tissue biopsy
Bladder Cancer and Other Factors to ConsiderAn annual exam is a wise idea for anyone using catheter supplies, but it's also important to see your doctor if there are any unusual or out-of-the-ordinary symptoms as soon as possible. Waiting on treating something as small as urinary tract infection may lead to the condition becoming a more serious issue.
Bladder irritation may increase the risk of bladder cancer, and this can be from various issues such as repeated UTIs (urinary tract infections) or bladder infections, use of a foley catheter, and bladder stones. There are higher rates of bladder cancer among tobacco users, so if you smoke or vape, this is also a great reason to get a regular check-up.
Additionally, if you are living with a neurogenic bladder or a SCI (spinal cord injury), you may want to consider the importance of checking for bladder cancer regularly too. The risk for this disease for those with SCIs is about "15 times higher than that of the general population" (New Mobility).
Since bladder cancer does not always have obvious symptoms, especially in the beginning stages, it's incredibly important to have a specialist like a urologist look over your bladder and urinary system in its entirety regularly so that any potential issues can be caught early.
Year-Round Maintenance of Your Urinary System's HealthAs always, the best thing you can do for your bladder, kidneys, and the rest of your urinary system is to follow your healthcare professional's recommendations.
This may include such advice as:
- Take any medications you have been prescribed as directed
- Keep properly hydrated according to your individual needs
- Continue regular check-ups with your urologist, especially in the case of any unusual or out-of-the-ordinary symptoms
- Always use good hygiene when using intermittent catheters, such as practicing sterile use versus washing and reusing, washing your hands well, and using disinfecting wipes or swabs
- Catheterize according to the schedule laid out by your doctor, which is typically going to be often enough to keep the urine volume inside your bladder under 10 ounces
- Use adequate sterile, water-soluble lubrication when cathing to avoid make catheterization more comfortable
- Consider using a hydrophilic catheter to further reduce irritation to the urethra and bladder, or a catheter with a gripper or sleeve to avoid touching the catheter directly, which can reduce the risk of infection
At 180 Medical, we not only provide top-quality intermittent catheter supplies; we also offer helpful, educational material whenever possible to make sure you have all the information you need, including instructions on how to self-cath. For more information about catheters that could be right for your needs, feel free to contact us. If you have any questions or seek medical advice, please be sure to consult with your healthcare professional.
Disclaimer: Please note that this is intended to provide a general understanding of bladder health and the importance of seeing a doctor. It should not be used in place of a visit, call, or consultation with a physician or other professional healthcare provider.
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Bill has worked for 180 Medical for over 10 years. He loves getting to talk to our customers, sharing his first-hand experiences as a quadriplegic, and helping those with in-depth questions about self-catheterization. He enjoys spending time outdoors, as well as watching and attending motocross events. Learn more about Bill's story.