Many people are familiar with the infamous catheter. However, most associate them mostly with incontinence and aging. In truth, catheters have many uses and functions in the medical world outside of hospice care. Here is what you need to know about catheters:
A catheter is a tube made of soft, medical plastic that is inserted into the urinary tract and the bladder. Catheters come in many different shapes and sizes and can be made of either rubber, plastic, or silicone. When it comes to catheters,there are three main types. Indwelling catheters sit inside the bladder and need to be inserted with the help of a medical professional. These can stay in the bladder for both long and short periods. External, or condom catheters sit outside the body and are typically used for men. The final type of catheter, intermittent catheters, can only be used for a short time. These catheters can be self-inserted (after enough practice) and need to be removed after use.
There are many reasons why someone would need to use a catheter, and each type varies based on the user's needs. Typically, catheters are used for people who have complications going to the bathroom. For people in the hospital, a catheter may be used to drain the bladder before a surgery or before someone gives birth. Catheters may also be used to clear the bladder of any blood clots or other bladder complications and can be used to monitor urine output if someone is in intensive care.
Catheters can also be used to help the user urinate if they are too weak to go to the bathroom, are experiencing a urinary blockage, or are suffering from urinary incontinence. Other times, catheters are necessary for people who have problems going to the bathroom as they age, or because of a medical condition. Finally, some people may require a catheter if they suffer trauma to the spine or pelvis, or if they have a condition like spina bifida or cerebral palsy.
Catheters can cause some complications if not used properly, with the most common being urinary tract infections. Some symptoms of a UTI include cloudy urine, burning in the urethra and genital area, achiness, lower back pain, blood in the urine, and potentially foul-smelling urine among other symptoms.
Other complications that can come with using a catheter include allergic reactions to the catheter itself, bladder stones, blood in the urine, kidney damage, and potential damage to the urethra. If you are using a catheter and are experiencing any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor or specialist immediately.
Catheters can be purchased and used on their own. That said, there are many accessories available to make using a catheter—especially at home—easier. Bedside drainage bags and leg bags can be used to collect urine during the night or if someone has incontinence issues. Urological accessories like sheaths and extension tubes can be purchased to make wearing leg bags while out and about easier, and gloves can keep the hands clean when inserting or removing a catheter as well.
If you or a loved one is looking into purchasing a catheter or other urological options, speak with your primary care physician and insurance provider. To browse urological products that can be shipped discreetly to your home, visit Medical Supply Depot.