Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common and usually occur because of the entry of bacteria into the urinary tract at the urethra. Approximately 20% to 25% of women have a UTI sometime during their lifetime, and acute UTIs account for approximately 7 million healthcare visits per year for young women. About 20% of women who develop a UTI experience recurrences. Women are more prone to UTIs than men because of natural anatomic variations. The female urethra is only about 1 to 2 inches in length, whereas the male urethra is 7 to 8 inches long. The female urethra is also closer to the anus than is the male urethra, increasing women’s risk for fecal contamination. The motion during sexual intercourse also increases the female’s risk for infection.
Urinary reflux is one reason that bacteria spread in the urinary tract. Vesicourethral reflux occurs when pressure increases in the bladder from coughing or sneezing and pushes urine into the urethra. When pressure returns to normal, the urine moves back into the bladder, taking with it bacteria from the urethra. In vesicoureteral reflux, urine flows backward from the bladder into one or both of the ureters, carrying bacteria from the bladder to the ureters and widening the infection. If they are left untreated, UTIs can lead to chronic infections, pyelonephritis, and even systemic sepsis and septic shock. If infection reaches the kidneys, permanent renal damage can occur, which leads to acute and chronic renal failure.
The pathogen that accounts for about 90% of UTIs is Escherichia coli. Other organisms that are commonly found in the gastrointestinal tract and may contaminate the genitourinary tract include Enterobacter, Pseudomonas, group B beta-hemolytic streptococci, Proteus mirabilis, Klebsiella species, and Serratia. Two growing causes of UTI in the United States are Staphylococcus saprophyticus and Candida albicans. Predisposing factors are urethral damage from childbirth, catheterization, or surgery; decreased frequency of urination; other medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus; and in women, frequent sexual activity and some forms of contraceptives (poorly fitting diaphragms, use of spermicides).
Nursing care plan assessment and physical examination
The patient with a UTI has a variety of symptoms that range from mild to severe. The typical complaint is of one or more of the following: frequency, burning, urgency, nocturia, blood or pus in the urine, and suprapubic fullness. If the infection has progressed to the kidney, there may be flank pain (referred to as costovertebral tenderness) and low-grade fever.
Question the patient about risk factors, including recent catheterization of the urinary tract, pregnancy or recent childbirth, neurological problems, volume depletion, frequent sexual activity, and presence of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Ask the patient to describe current sexual and birth control practices because poorly fitting diaphragms, the use of spermicides, and certain sexual practices such as anal intercourse place the patient at risk for a UTI.
Physical examination is often unremarkable in the patient with a UTI, although some patients have costovertebral angle tenderness in cases of pyelonephritis. On occasion, the patient has fever, chills, and signs of a systemic infection. Inspect the urine to determine its color, clarity, odor, and character. Surveillance for STIs is recommended as part of the examination.
UTIs rarely result in disruption of the patient’s normal activities. The infection is generally acute and responds rapidly to antibiotic therapy. The general guidelines to increase fluid intake and concomitant frequent urination may be problematic for some patients in restrictive work environments. The accompanying discomfort may result in temporary restriction of sexual activity, especially if an STI is diagnosed.
Nursing care plan primary nursing diagnosis: Altered urinary elimination related to infection.
Nursing care plan intervention and treatment plan
An acid-ash diet may be encouraged. A diet of meats, eggs, cheese, prunes, cranberries, plums, and whole grains can increase the acidity of the urine. Foods not allowed on this diet include carbonated beverages, anything containing baking soda or powder, fruits other than those previously stated, all vegetables except corn and lentil, and milk and milk products. Because the action of some UTI medications is diminished by acidic urine (nitrofurantoin), review all prescriptions before instructing patients to follow this diet.
UTIs are treated with antibiotics specific to the invading organism. Usually, a 7- to 10-day course of antibiotics is prescribed, but shortened and large single-dose regimens are currently under investigation. Most elderly patients need a full 7- to 10-day treatment, although caution is used in their management because of the possibility of diminished renal capacity. Women being treated with antibiotics may contract a vaginal yeast infection during therapy; review the signs and symptoms (cheesy discharge and perineal itching and swelling), and encourage the woman to purchase an over-the-counter antifungal or to contact her primary healthcare provider if treatment is indicated.
Encourage patients with infections to increase fluid intake to promote frequent urination, which minimizes stasis and mechanically flushes the lower urinary tract. Strategies to limit recurrence include increasing vitamin C intake, drinking cranberry juice, wiping from front to back after a bowel movement (women), regular emptying of the bladder, avoiding tub and bubble baths, wearing cotton underwear, and avoiding tight clothing such as jeans. These strategies have been beneficial for some patients, although there is no research that supports the efficacy of such practices.
Encourage the patient to take over-the-counter analgesics unless contraindicated for mild discomfort but to continue to take all antibiotics until the full course of treatment has been completed. If the patient experiences perineal discomfort, sitz baths or warm compresses to the perineum may increase comfort.
Nursing care plan discharge and home health care guidelines
Treatment of a UTI occurs in the outpatient setting. Teach the patient an understanding of the proposed therapy, including the medication name, dosage, route, and side effects. Explain the signs and symptoms of complications such as pyelonephritis and the need for follow-up before leaving the setting. Explain the importance of completing the entire course of antibiotics even if symptoms decrease or disappear. If the patient experiences gastrointestinal discomfort, encourage the patient to continue taking the medications but to take them with a meal or milk unless contraindicated. Warn the patient that drugs with phenazopyridine turn the urine orange.