A catheter is a flexible tube that is inserted through a narrow opening into a body cavity, particularly the bladder, for removing fluid. That is the definition of the word catheter but there are many differences between them. Catheters are generally made from silicone, latex, or a combination of both. One type of catheter is called a Foley catheter
. Once it is inserted into the bladder, a small balloon at the tip is inflated so the catheter can be held in place inside the bladder. Another type of catheter is referred to as an "intermittent catheter
". Similar to the Foley, it is inserted into the urethra and then it is pushed into the bladder. Unlike the Foley, once the bladder is drained, it is removed immediately and discarded. People who use intermittent catheters use several a day while people who use Foley catheters use the same one for a set period of time. Some companies like Bard Medical
make Foley, as well as intermittent catheters.
A straight tip catheter is a catheter that is straight from end to end. Straight tip is considered the standard because it is the style that the majority of people will use. Straight tip catheters are available in latex, silicone, silicone coated latex, with or without a funnel or connector. They are available in different over-all lengths to accommodate male and female anatomy. If you purchase a straight tip catheter that is not pre-lubricated or "hydrophillic", you will need to use a sterile lubricant that is approved for catheter use.
A coude tip catheter is a catheter that has a slight bend or angle to the tip that allows the catheter to move around obstructions such as an enlarged prostate or scar tissue. The bent tip of the catheter makes insertion much easier for anyone with an obstruction. Coude tip is available in the Foley and intermittent styles. The coude tip catheter still requires lubrication. If your catheter is hydrophillic like Coloplast SpeediCath, follow the directions that come with the catheter. If the catheter is not, then you will add a sterile lubricant to the catheter prior to insertion.
Some Foley catheters have markings on them to help you insert the catheter at the right angle, so the bend is going in the proper direction. These guide marks can be very helpful. Some coude tip catheters have more of a bend than others. The best way to find out which angle works for you is to try different styles and see which you prefer. If you can't find samples of the catheters you want to try, check out an online medical supply store because many of them allow you to buy one catheter at a time. No need to commit to a box until you know for sure that the catheter will work for you.
Some variations in the Coude catheter family are:
Coude Olive Tip: Bent tip with a small bulb at the end of the curved catheter tip to help navigate obstructions in the urethra.
Coude Tiemann Tip: Bent tip that is longer, thinner, and more flexible than standard coude tips. Intended to be used to help find even very small openings through the urethra into the bladder.
Should I Use a Straight or Coude Catheter?
You should use a coude tip catheter if your medical care professionals have advised you to use a coude tip catheter. If you are having problems inserting a straight tip catheter you should tell your doctor or nurse. Remember, your medical team can't help you if they don't know you are having a problem. Using catheters is never going to be fun but it should also not be painful. If you are experiencing sharp pain, if it feels like your straight tip catheter is getting "stuck", talk to your doctor and see if you should try a coude tip instead. Another thing you can ask yourself is, does the catheter process feel fine when the catheter is inserted but start to hurt as it is removed? If that is the case, insertion is fine but removal is painful, try a different lubricant
or try a catheter that is hydrophillic or pre-lubricated. Not all sterile medical lubricants are created the same. Try a few different ones to see which lube works best for you. Always make sure the lubricant you are using is sterile!