How-to Determine What Catheter is Right for You

Older populations suffer from far more health problems than their younger counterparts do, ranging from osteoarthritis to urinary incontinence. Often shortened to incontinence, the condition is very common in seniors, with over 50% of noninstitutionalized patients over the age of 65 reporting bladder leakages.

Incontinence is actually a symptom of underlying health problems, with persistent leaks of urine caused by pregnancy, childbirth, aging, hysterectomy, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease, among others. This inconvenient, confidence-reducing problem can manifest itself in uncommon, brief leaks from abdominal contractions caused by sneezing or laughing to people who involuntarily release their bladders multiple times per day.

Catheters are designed to help those with bladder problems urinate as normal people would. They are long, flexible, hollow tubes made from rubber, plastic, or silicone. Urine is diverted from the bladder directly to drainage bags or bed pans, depending on the independence of the patient. Some people use these helpful devices to recover from injuries, while many seniors, elders, and bedridden patients must use them indefinitely. No matter what your particular situation is, here are several tips for choosing the right catheter every time.

Indwelling catheters

These catheters fit all the way into the bladder, sometimes called Foley catheter after the man who invented it. Indwelling catheters are ideal for those with physiological problems that are unable to urinate appropriately. Foley’s work by being anchored in the bladder by a small balloon swelled to size with water to prevent them from falling out. Indwelling catheters hold the highest risk of patients getting infected because of how deeply they must be inserted.

External catheters

Also called condom catheters, these devices are usually meant for those with psychological problems and mental disabilities. Patients are unable to recognize when they need to urinate. These catheters fit an inch or two inside the urethra and enclose the penis inside a large plastic bag that retains urine. External catheters are generally safer than indwelling devices as they feature lower risks of bladder infections.

Intermittent catheters

These devices are intended only for short stints of time, sometimes as few as one full urination. Intermittent catheters can be administered at home without the help of a nurse of nurse’s assistant as patients who use them usually do not have lasting, chronic problems with incontinence. Patients who utilize these incontinence devices must remove them directly after use, with most of them choosing disposable catheters that can be used new every time for minimal risk.

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