What is a catheter?

A catheter is a small rubber or plastic tube that can be used to help you drain urine from your bladder. Catheters come in many different sizes and styles and can be made from different materials. Once you have spoken to your doctor about your options, it may take some research and experimenting to determine which works best for you.

Is a catheter my only option to manage my urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence, a loss of control of one’s bladder that can lead to unexpected or unintended urination, can often be addressed without the need for catheter use. While it is typically recommended to speak to a healthcare provider about your specific circumstances before coming to a decision regarding treatment, lifestyle modifications alone can often dramatically improve discomfort many feel due to urinary incontinence. These modifications include planning ahead when consuming large volumes of fluids, scheduling bathroom breaks, or performing kegels to strengthen your pelvic muscles.

More details on lifestyle changes that can help you manage your urinary incontinence can be found here.

What is the difference between a coated catheter and a lubricated catheter?

While both coated and lubricated catheters are modified to help the catheter glide more smoothly during insertion and removal, there is a slight difference between them that could impact your comfort. Coated catheters have a “hydrophilic” coating—meaning they are made with a water-based coating that is meant to be more comfortable and less prone to infection. Lubricated catheters need to be covered in lubricant to increase comfort. While some lubricated catheters come “pre-lubricated”, with the lubricant already applied, others do not, so you would have to separately purchase lubricant and apply it yourself.

To learn more about the different catheter types we offer, read this article about the basics of catheter use.

How do I know if my catheter has entered my bladder?

Generally, once a catheter has entered your bladder, urine should begin to flow out of the catheter. This will continue until your bladder is empty.

What can I do if using my catheter is uncomfortable or painful?

Most pain you’ll experience during catheter use is caused by friction when inserting or removing the catheter. The two most common factors that can help lessen this friction are (1) lubrication and (2) size and style of the catheter. 

Discuss lubricant use with your doctor first to ensure the lubricant you purchase is compatible with your catheter. If you are already using lubricant, try using more or applying lubricant further up on the catheter than you have in the past. Often, simply applying more lubricant can make catheter use significantly more comfortable.

If you’re in pain even after increasing lubricant use, it may be time for you to change the catheter you’re using altogether. You may consider using pre-lubricated catheters or hydrophilic catheters, which are designed for comfort. Read about the different catheter design options available to you and other common catheter problems here, and talk to your doctor about which make the most sense for you.

How do I keep my catheter clean?

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Wash your genital area with soap and water, wiping front to back for women and towards the tip of the penis for men.
  3. In the shower or with a clean washcloth, wash the exposed surfaces of the catheter with soap and water. Start with the end that enters your body and then move on to the rest.

To minimize the risk of infection, do not clean your catheter in the bath. Also, if you are cleaning your catheter in the shower, use a larger night collection bag rather than a leg bag. Finally, remember that catheters are typically designed to be used once and thrown away, as additional uses can lead to the accumulation of bacteria that may enter the bladder and cause a UTI. Read more about catheter use here, or call us directly if you have any questions about your particular catheter.

What are the different kinds of catheters?

There are 3 major categories of catheters: 

  1. Intermittent catheters - single-use, straight catheters that are meant to be used at specific intervals throughout the day; typically need lubrication prior to use.
  2. External catheters - also known as “condom caths,” these rubber sheaths are placed over the penis to drain urine.
  3. Indwelling catheters - catheters with a balloon near the tip of the end that you insert that, once inflated, will keep the catheter in your bladder. The catheter drains into a urine bag.

The above catheter types can be further modified in ways that may make insertion and removal more comfortable for some people. To read about these options and other details that can help you think about which catheter might be the best fit for you, click here.

Have a question we didn't answer? Comment below & we'll get back to you! Or, take a look at our Urology Resources!

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