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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 urinary 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 use a Urinary Catheter?

Men And Their Catheters: A Quick TutorialI’m sure if you were to ask men if they prefer to use a 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 have identified 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.
  • 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 male urinary catheterization 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.

Types of Male Catheters

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. WebM.D.com notes that there are basically three different types of catheters for men. They are:

  • Intermittent Catheter - Basically, intermittent catheter is a thin hollow tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra to drain urine. It 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, it is a special type of condom attached to a special tube to collect urine. It is for short-term use only since long-term use can increase the risk of UTIs, urinary blockage, and skin irritation.


Each of these male catheters 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 a 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.

1. Standard Intermittent Catheters

Even among these types of male catheters, there are variations that allow patients to choose what might fit them the best. Many of them can be carried discreetly in a man’s pocket and are known as male pocket catheters.

2. Indwelling 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 for males, there are many different variations of male Foley catheters in order to accommodate just about every patient's needs. A two-way Foley catheter has two separate “branches” to allow for balloon inflation and urine drainage.


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.

3. External Condom Catheters

Male external catheters are 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, they also offer many options to patients, such as silicone or latex.


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.
 

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