Our Common Ostomy Issues blog series continues this month with a focus on urinary tract infections after urostomy surgery. Be sure to check out our first post in this series, which is all about troubleshooting ostomy smells, and stay tuned for more informative posts about living with an ostomy.
Urinary tract infections are no fun. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common issues that ostomates with a urostomy face. However, you may be able to reduce your risk of urinary tract infections after urostomy surgery with some easy tips.
What is a Urostomy?
First, let’s go over what a urostomy is.
The Urinary System Before and After a Urostomy
In a normally functioning urinary system, the kidneys remove waste products that naturally occur as your body processes food, beverages, and medicine. As the kidneys filter the blood, this process creates urine, which then passes through small tubes called ureters on its way to the bladder. Then the bladder stores that urine until its surrounding nerves signal to the brain that it’s time to urinate and empty the bladder.
After urostomy surgery, the kidneys still filter blood to create urine. However, urine will instead pass from the ureters into a surgically-created tube called an ileal conduit. The surgeon creates the ileal conduit with a section of the small intestine. Urine will flow through that and out of a small opening in the abdomen, which is called a stoma.
A urostomy pouch will then fit over the stoma to collect urine as it leaves the body. You won’t be able to control or feel when your urine comes out. However, over time, you will be able to create a routine around emptying your urostomy pouch and changing your urostomy pouching system.
When is Urostomy Surgery Necessary?
Your doctor may suggest urostomy surgery if all or part of your urinary system is not working properly due to injury, disease, or another medical condition. Urostomy surgery is typically a permanent procedure, unlike other ostomy types which can sometimes be reversed.
A few common reasons for needing a urostomy may include:
- Bladder cancer
- Congenital disabilities
- Trauma or injury to the bladder
- Damage to nerves that control bladder function
- Interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome)
Urinary Tract Infections After Urostomy Surgery
Now, let’s talk about the main complaint of many ostomates living with a urostomy: urinary tract infections.
Unfortunately, even after urostomy surgery, urinary tract infections can still be an issue. This is because the urinary tract is still in place, so bacteria can make its way into the body and multiply. Also, bacteria can get inside the urostomy itself. Urinary tract infections, if left untreated, can lead to more serious issues, such as kidney infections.
It’s important to see your doctor as soon as you think you may have a urinary tract infection.
Common Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections
- A strong urge to urinate
- Blood in the urine
- Dark, cloudy, or strong-smelling urine
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain or back pain near kidneys
Tips to Reduce Urinary Tract Infections After Urostomy Surgery
If you’re living with a urostomy and you’re tired of recurring UTIs, here are a few tips that may help make a difference!
Tip 1: Drink Plenty of Water
If you’re new to your urostomy, you’re probably still getting used to figuring out how often you empty your pouch. Over time, you’ll figure out an average level of urine output to plan for each day.
However, now that you have a urostomy, it’s important to stay hydrated and drink at least 8 8 oz. glasses of water each day. Water helps your kidneys do their job of flushing out body waste. It can also reduce the bacterial concentration in your urine, which may help lower your chance of getting a UTI.
If you notice your urine is noticeably dark yellow or orange, you’re likely dehydrated. That means it’s time to drink some water. Take a look at our handy hydration chart below for reference.
Also, you may want to consider reducing or eliminating your intake of alcohol and caffeine, both of which may contribute to dehydration.
Tip 2: Regularly Empty Your Urostomy Pouch
One way to reduce urinary tract infections or urostomy infections is to remember to regularly empty your urostomy pouch before it gets too full. You’ve probably heard that before, but you may be wondering why it’s so necessary.
Infection-causing bacteria grows and multiplies in urine fairly quickly. If urine is left inside the urostomy pouch for too long, it could back up and wash against or into your stoma, which may cause irritation and increase the risk of a urostomy infection.
Ostomy Team Supervisor Michael Riggs says, “We recommend emptying your urostomy pouch when it becomes 1/2 to 2/3 full. Not only can a full pouch cause urine to back up to the stoma, but a full pouch is also more likely to come off due to the weight of the urine inside the pouch.”
If you’re unsure how to drain your urostomy pouch, you can always reach out to one of our Ostomy Specialists. We’re more than happy to help you in any way we can.
Tip 3: Clean Your Urostomy Night Drainage System
After urostomy surgery, your doctor may suggest using a urostomy night drainage system to collect urine overnight. This is because urine and mucus will drain from your stoma all night long. With a night drainage system, you can sleep through the night without worrying about rolling over on your full pouch or having to get up to empty it.
However, bacteria will grow inside the tubing and container of your urostomy drainage system if you’re not regularly cleaning it. This has the potential to raise your risk of getting urinary tract infections.
Not sure how to clean it? Contact us at 180 Medical. Our trained Ostomy Specialists can help you with any questions you may have. Plus, we can connect our customers to a team of certified Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses who are available for questions and concerns related to your ostomy.
Tip 4: Keep Your Peristomal Skin Clean
The skin around your stoma is called peristomal skin. If the peristomal skin becomes irritated or infected, it may cause several issues, including difficulty with getting your pouching system to stay attached. Plus, you may have an increased risk of a urostomy infection without proper peristomal skin care.
You can learn more about how to safely clean the skin around your stoma with our helpful blog, The Top 5 Things You Should Know About Peristomal Skin Health.
Where to Buy Urostomy Supplies
Reducing urostomy infections doesn’t have to be complicated. You just need the right resources along with high-quality urostomy supplies to create a routine that will work best for you.
180 Medical has a highly-trained team of friendly Ostomy Specialists who are ready to help you find the products that can turn your life around. Contact us today!