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Catheters Buyers Guide - Express Medical Supply

Catheters are medical devices used to treat a variety of ailments or during surgical procedures. Typically, they allow drainage and administration of fluids. Among other purposes, catheters are mainly used for draining urine from the bladder. Based on the circumstances, catheters may be use temporarily or on a more permanent basis.

  This guide covers:
  • What Is a Urinary Catheter?
  • What Is a Urinary Catheter Used For?
  • What Are the Different Catheter Types?
  • What Are Potential Complications of Urinary Catheters?
  • How to Clean Your Catheter. 

What Is a Urinary Catheter?

Urinary catheters are very helpful to people who, due to different situations, are not able to empty their bladders on their own. Normally, urine is stored in the bladder and released during urination. When the bladder isn’t emptied properly, a catheter allows the urine to drain as needed.

A urinary catheter is a thin, flexible tube that allows the urine to drain and is collected in a catheter bag. The catheter tube is usually passed into the bladder via the urethra. In some cases, however, the catheter may be passed through the lower abdomen, which is referred to as a suprapubic catheter.

What Is a Urinary Catheter Used For?

Urinary catheters are common for many people with urinary retention or incontinence. In some cases, catheterization may also be necessary during hospitalization or after a surgery. 

Many individuals face urination issues due to kidney stones, prostate surgery or enlargement, genital surgery, or medications which affect the bladder muscles. 

When the bladder isn’t emptied, urine buildup puts pressure in the kidneys and increases the risk of kidney failure. 

Your physician may advise you to use a catheter if you are unable to empty your bladder, have a nervous system disorder or spinal cord injury, or are experiencing complications due to diabetes. Depending on your circumstances, you may be prescribed a catheter for a short period of time or long-term. 

What Are the Different Catheter Types?

Catheters are often made of silicone, rubber, or plastic and come in different types and sizes. As some catheters are made from latex, it is vital to notify your physician if you have any history of latex allergy.

If you have been directed to use a catheter at home, choosing the right size is important to obtain optimal results. Consult your treating physician or nurse about choosing the right size of catheter for you. 

There are three main types of catheters: external, indwelling, and intermittent. Catheters are used for a variety of conditions and the type is based on the condition of each individual. 

An external catheter (also referred to as condom catheter or Texas catheter), is often used by men who are incontinent and prefer not to wear adult diapers. 

A condom catheter is less invasive in comparison to other catheter types. The device is placed over the tip of the penis (not inserted in the body), making it more comfortable and lowering the risk of urinary tract infections. Most external catheters need to be removed and changed daily.

An indwelling catheter (also known as a Foley catheter) can be used short and long term. It is inserted into urethra, and a balloon is inflated internally to keep the catheter in place. Once inserted, urine flows through the urethra and into the collection bag. A Foley catheter is often used in patients undergoing surgery to keep the bladder empty during the procedure. 

An indwelling catheter can also be used as a suprapubic catheter, which requires surgery and is inserted through a small hole in the lower abdomen. 

An intermittent catheter may be used before or after surgery, or to empty the bladder during birth. Once the urine has been drained, the catheter can be removed. Intermittent (temporary) catheters are intended for short term usage only.

What Is the Difference Between Male and Female Catheters?

Catheters may sometimes be sold as female intermittent catheters. The main difference between a male catheter and a female catheter is the length of the tube. As women have a much shorter urethra than men, female catheters are shorter than those for males. The typical length of a female intermittent catheter is about six inches, while Foley catheters (used by both men and women) may be 16 inches long. 

While it is possible for women to use a longer catheter (such as a Foley catheter), men should not use female-length catheters unless recommended by the treating physician.

Some men may require extra length with a Foley or intermittent catheter, though standard sixteen-inch male catheters work fine for the majority of patients. When inserting a too-short catheter in males, there is a risk of the balloon inflating inside the urethra rather than inside the bladder. 

Urine collection bags attached to the catheter are generally divided into two categories: urinary drainage bags and leg bags. A urinary drainage bag is a large bag that can be hooked under the bed and used overnight. Leg bags are smaller and can be attached to the leg with either velcro or elastic straps. A catheter leg bag can be worn discreetly under clothing. 

What Are Potential Complications of Urinary Catheters?

To prevent infection, practice good hygiene and drink plenty of fluids. Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching your catheter. 

With the exception of those using an external catheter, patients have an increased risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs). The most common UTI symptoms include painful urination, foul-smelling urine, change in urinating pattern, fever, and vomiting. If you think you may have a urinary tract infection, contact your general practitioner or nurse as soon as possible. 

To reduce the risk of a UTI, it is essential that people performing intermittent self-catheterization follow the advice and exact directions provided by their medical professional. Foley catheters are most likely to cause UTIs, followed by intermittent catheters.

In some cases, catheter users may experience bladder spasms, bloody urine, and leakage around the catheter. Other potential risks of using a urinary catheter include the narrowing of the urethra, as well as injury to the urethra or bladder (due to incorrect catheter insertion).

Alert your treating physician if you notice redness, burning, or pain around the area where the catheter enters the body, and if you feel pain in the lower abdomen or lower back. Contact your doctor immediately if you have a suprapubic catheter and it falls out. 

How to Clean Your Catheter

Maintaining good hygiene will reduce the risk of infections. With the exception of single-use catheters, all visible parts of your device should be washed daily. 

Never reuse intermittent or condom catheters. Foley catheters cannot be reused once inserted, but the urine drainage port (as well as the balloon port) must be kept clean. Clean the ports with an antiseptic wipe anytime you change the urine bag and ensure you are wearing new exam gloves each time. Whenever possible, use an appliance cleanser like Urolux to clean your catheter leg bag. Alternatively, you could also use warm soapy water. Avoid using scented soaps, bath salts, or lotions around the catheter.

The contents of your catheter leg bag should be emptied every eight hours or when the bag is full. It is recommended to clean the area around the indwelling catheter after each bowel movement. 

Catheters can make a world of difference when the bladder does not empty properly. Though people of all ages require a catheter for a variety of reasons, they are typically only prescribed when clearly necessary. 

Check out our blog for more catheter information, tips, and product reviews!

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