Men And Their Catheters: A Quick Tutorial

In America there are millions of men who need to use catheters every day. The reasons for this can be widespread as well as options available to male patients. The two main causes for the need of a catheter is the inability to completely empty ones bladder (urinary retention) and the emptying of the bladder at inappropriate times (incontinence). The anatomical differences between men and women create some unique circumstances for males. Many men have felt the stigma of a bladder that doesn’t work properly so they may withdraw socially and not experience a fulfilling lifestyle. What men need to understand is there is no shame and there are numerous options to allow them to regain their freedom and lifestyle.

Why the Catheter?

I’m sure if you were to ask men if they prefer to use the catheter they would say no, but there are many reasons as to why they need this for a healthy lifestyle. The reasons for catheter use can vary from man to man but all have one thing in common: they prevent the proper emptying of the bladder. The National Institutes of Health identify several factors that can lead to catheter use. Urinary incontinence or retention (inability to control your urine and the inability to completely empty your bladder, respectively) is a leading cause. Also surgery for the prostate or genitals can lead to catheter use, not to mention other medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis or dementia. Another common reason for the need for catheters is spinal cord injuries, where you can’t sense the need to empty your bladder nor do you have control over it. The act of catheterization in a male is relatively simple, the eyelid side of the catheter is inserted into the urethra (taking care not to touch it with anything that is not sterile) until the tip reaches the bladder and the urine starts draining. Whether the cause is bladder/prostate cancer, diabetes, or an injury there are many options for patients to accommodate just about everyone’s lifestyle.

Options, Options, Options

As you can imagine men have different needs as well as different lifestyles. With this in mind, there are many different options to accommodate most men when it comes to their catheterization needs. The first step in determining what might work for you is to identify what specific medical needs you may have. Your urologist can help with this process by giving you the pros and cons of each catheterization system. notes that there are basically three different types of catheters available to men. They are:

  • Standard Catheter-Basically a thin hollow tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra to drain urine. This is used for intermittent self catheterization.
  • Indwelling Foley Catheter-This stays in place continuously and is held in place by a balloon that is inflated inside the bladder. While convenient, the risk of urinary tract infections (UTI) is higher with indwelling catheters than intermittent catheters.
  • Condom Catheter-Also known as a Texas catheter, is a special condom attached to a special tube to collect urine and is for short-term use only since long-term use can increase the risk of UTIs, urinary blockage, and skin irritation.

Each of these catheterization systems offer different variations such as latex, silicone, or even silicone coated PVC in order to give patients a variety of options. Another factor that can influence your decision of catheter style is the extent of your injuries. For instance, somebody affected by spinal cord injury that won’t allow the patient to self catheterize might opt to use a Foley catheter since they cannot self cath. For an enlarged prostate, the use of a Coude tip (curved tip catheter) may allow for easy insertion around an obstruction.

Standard (Intermittent) Catheters

Even among these types of catheters there are variations that allow patients to choose what might fit them best. Many of these can be carried discreetly in a man’s pocket and kept in a sterile packaging. Bard offers users many variants of their intermittent catheters. The Bard Bardex Red Rubber Latex Intermittent Urethral Catheter-Robinson Model features two opposing eyes with a hollow round tip while the Bard Bardex Whistle Tip Intermittent Latex Urethral Catheter has a single drainage eye that maximizes flow and an open whistle tip. Both are meant for single use and are sterile to minimize the risk of infection. For those that are sensitive to latex, Bard offers the Bard Clean-Cath Intermittent PVC Urethral Catheter with Regular Tip. They are individually packaged in a sterile easy open package and have a smooth round tip for easy insertion. Another option is to use a catheter made of silicone. The Coloplast Self-Cath Plus Soft Straight Tipped Hydrophilic Coated Intermittent Catheter is completely latex free and reduces the risk of urethral trauma. Many patients experience difficulty inserting a straight tipped catheter and therefore may require a Coude curved tip in order to get around some kind of obstruction. The Coloplast Self-Cath Coude Olive Tip Male Intermittent Catheter with Insert Guide Strip features a guide strip to assure proper alignment of the curved tip. Another option that combines the benefits of PVC and silicone is the Rusch ERU Siliconized PVC Intermittent Catheter with Tiemann Tip and is flexible with a curved tip and a stiffer shaft to help ease catheterization. Some standard catheters systems are all enclosed. This means that the urine is collected in a closed bag that is attached to the tube. The Coloplast Self-Cath Straight Tip Intermittent Catheter Closed System is a good example. It features an introducer tip that reduces the risk of bacterial contamination during insertion and comes with 1100ml collection bag. Another closed system that reduces the risk of UTIs is the Rausch MMG Closed System Intermittent Catheter with Straight Tip. Its soft silicone introducer tip is lubricated with a nonallergenic water-soluble lubricant which minimizes the risk of bacterial infection.

Foley Catheters

Some men may need to use an indwelling catheter such as the Foley catheter. These stay in place and are held by an inflated balloon in the bladder to prevent slippage. Just like with intermittent catheters, there are many different variations of the Foley catheter in order to accommodate just about every patients needs. A two-way Foley catheter has two separate “branches” to allow for balloon inflation and urine drainage. One example of this system is the Kendall Dover Hydrogel Coated 5cc Two-Way Latex Foley Catheter which is coated with a slick hydrogel coating for easy insertion and less trauma to the urethra. The Bard Bardex Lubricath Two-Way Latex Foley Catheter with 5cc Balloon is another latex based catheter that utilizes a hydrogel coating that creates a hydrophilic cushion between the catheter surface and the urethra which enhances patient comfort and resists the buildup of urine salts. Some patients may have sensitivity to latex and therefore may opt for a silicone catheter. A good example of this is the Coloplast Two-Way CystoCare Folysil Silicone Foley Indwelling Catheter with 30cc Balloon. It features a larger lumen to reduce obstruction and the larger diameter eyelets allow for better drainage while its silicone coating provides smoothness to ease catheterization. The Kendall Two-Way Dover Silver Coated 100Percent Silicone Foley Catheter With 30cc Balloon is a silicone catheter that has a bullet shape for easy insertion and less tissue trauma as well as a 30% larger inflation lumen. Foley catheters are also available in three-way variations. These allow for a third option of irrigation, in addition to urine drainage and balloon inflation. These catheters, such as the Bard Three-Way Bardex I.C. Infection Control Latex Foley Catheter with 30cc Balloon, reduced catheter associated UTIs and can inhibit migration of pathogens into the bladder. To minimize collapse due to the vacuum of draining, the Bard Three-Way Hematuria Bardex Lubricath Latex Foley Catheter with 30cc Balloon utilizes a wound nylon coil to reinforce the shaft of the catheter. It is also available with a Coude tip. For those looking to avoid latex the Medtronic Covidien Dover Two-Way Uncoated 100% Silicone Foley Catheter With 5cc Balloon Capacity provides an inner silicone material for less irritation and encrustation.

Condom Catheters

This type of catheter is unique to men since the condom fits over the male penis. They are easy to use, but should only be for short-term use. While convenient, over time skin irritation and urinary blockage can occur. Much like Foley catheters and intermittent catheters, these too offer patients many options, such as silicone or latex. Coloplast offers several options including the Coloplast Clear Advantage Silicone Self Adhering Male External Condom Catheter which is premium latex free, silicone, one piece catheter designed for maximum wear time.

The thin silicone sheath increases comfort and breathability while the adhesive features aloe and features a kink resistant nozzle to ensure a free flow at all times. If you choose latex, the Coloplast Active-Cath Latex Self Adhering Male External Catheter combines a comfortable sheath with a wide comfortable seal which is easy to apply and is color-coded for user-friendly sizing. Another option available is the Hollister Everyday Male External Catheter which resists tearing with durable latex and is available in four different sizes to accommodate most men. For those looking for a reusable option, the Cook Non Adhesive Silicone Male External Condom Catheter has an inflatable retention ring that can be easily deflated for removal and is non-sterile, reusable, and made for single patient use. For men who have a retracted or small penis the Rochester Pop on All Silicone Self Adhering Male External Catheter offers soft breathable silicone and forward placement adhesive technology with a 1 ½ inch sheath for their specific catheterization needs. The Coloplast Freedom Clear Sport Sheath Silicone Self Adhering Male External Condom Catheter also addresses any latex allergies as well as roll up at the base of the catheter with a thin brief silicone sheath. No matter what the reason is or what the injury or illness might be, there are options for men so that incontinence does not dictate your lifestyle. It may take some trial and error or mixing and matching, but overcoming the stigma of using catheters is your first step towards regaining your independence.

Also Read:

Catheter and size

Catheters Which One To Buy… Disposable or Reusable?

Choosing Catheters: Be Educated

Catheters and Types


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