How to Use a Catheter


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Many men will have to use a catheter at some point in their lives. It is quite common to need a catheter after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer, for example. You may also need this device if you have a narrow urethra or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate. The doctor will insert the catheter through your urethra to drain your bladder. You may only need it temporarily, or you may need it for a longer period of time. Your doctor will provide instructions on cleaning the catheter and the urine collection bags, but here are a few tips that can help keep you healthy and comfortable.

Staying healthy when using a catheter

Although emptying the urine collection bag may be tedious at times, it is very important that you continue to drink plenty of fluids. Unless your doctor instructs you otherwise, try to drink at least eight glasses of water or other liquids daily. Avoid or limit beverages with caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic, and it can also irritate your bladder. Other items that may irritate your bladder include acidic foods and drinks (i.e. lemon juice), carbonated beverages, spicy foods, chocolate, and alcohol.

It’s also important to avoid becoming constipated. Drinking liquids will help with this, as will eating a fiber-rich diet. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. If you do become constipated, inform your doctor promptly. Avoid taking an over-the-counter constipation medication unless your doctor instructs you otherwise.

Tips and other information about using a catheter

Do not attempt to remove the catheter. Avoid any activities that would tug or pull at it, as this could cause pain and bleeding. Keep the tubing free of kinks and be sure to hold it in your hand as you walk so that you do not step on it. Keep the collection bag below the level of your bladder.

Follow your doctor’s instructions for cleaning the catheter and your pelvic region. If the tip of your penis becomes sore or irritated from the catheter, apply a water-based lubricant after washing it. Do not use any other type of cream or lotion unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. If you notice that the catheter leaks a small amount of urine, apply gauze around the entry point. If it leaks a larger amount of urine, call your doctor right away.

Side effects of catheter use

Every man’s experience with a catheter is different. Some men experience no side effects or only mild side effects from the use of a catheter. However, some men have bladder spasms, which may be painful. Bladder spasms will feel like a cramp in the pelvic region, and they can also cause urine leakage. If you think you’re having a bladder spasm, call your doctor right away. He will remove the catheter to stop the spasms.

Urinary tract infections can also occur. This is why it’s crucial to follow your doctor’s catheter care instructions very carefully, and to keep the urine collection bag below your waist.

A small amount of blood in the urine is common, especially after surgery for prostate cancer. Inform your doctor right away if you experience a great deal of blood in your urine, or large blood clots.

You should also call your doctor right away if you have chills or a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit. Inform him if you notice pus, mucus, blood, or a foul-smelling drainage that appears around the catheter. Call your doctor if your bladder feels full, but no urine has drained into the bag for a couple of hours.