Urinary catheterization is frightening for many men. Prostate obstruction, cancer, neurological disorders and other medical issues can necessitate the use of a urinary catheter for control of incontinence or for removing urine from the body. There are many factors to consider when choosing a catheter, and knowing your options can make catheterization less scary.
Do You Need an Internal or External Catheter?
External catheters work by collecting urine that flows from the urethra on its own, while internal catheters are inserted into the urethra. An external catheter is a less painful, less risky option for men who have incontinence. An internal catheter is necessary for men who have trouble releasing urine from the bladder.
There are several types of internal catheters that can be used for men, including flexible catheters, straight catheters and indwelling catheters. However, there is only one type of external catheter for men. The condom catheter consists of a condom with a special tube attached to drain urine into a collection bag.
Do You Need an Indwelling or Intermittent Catheter?
The most common type of catheters are those used for intermittent catheterization. These catheters are inserted only when the user needs to urinate and removed immediately after. Men who self-catheterize should use a flexible catheter to prevent damage to the urethra, but straight catheters can be safely used by medical professionals.
An indwelling catheter, also called a Foley catheter, stays inserted in the urethra for long periods of time. This type of catheter is useful for incontinence and during hospitalization. Indwelling catheters have a higher risk of infection and a greater level of discomfort. An alternative to indwelling catheters for men with prostatic obstruction is the prostatic stent.
What Catheter Material Do You Need?
The most common materials for catheters are latex, silicone and polyurethane. Silicone is the most comfortable material due to its flexibility and inert nature inside the body. Latex can be problematic for individuals who have or develop an allergy to it. Polyurethane is more durable than silicone or latex, but also less flexible and more expensive.
Catheters also come in disposable and reusable versions. Reusable catheters are made from stronger, less porous materials, while disposable catheters are made of less costly materials. Reusable catheters can save money over time, but they come with a higher risk of infection and require thorough cleaning after each use.
What Size Catheter Do You Need?
Catheter size is measured according to the French Catheter Scale. The right catheter size for a particular patient will be large enough to allow urine to flow freely but small enough to avoid damaging the urethra. You may need a larger catheter size if your urine is thick, bloody or contains sediment.