What are the different types of catheters?

If you’re new to the world of catheters, you may not yet be aware of the different varieties which exist! We’ve provided a handy summary on each of them below...

Indwelling urethral catheter

As the name suggests, an indwelling urethral catheter is inserted into the urethra and remains held in place by a small, water-filled balloon on the end of the catheter, which is inflated at the time of insertion. This prevents the catheter from falling out. This is deflated when it’s time for the catheter to be removed or changed. You may hear this type of catheter being referred to as a Foley catheter – named after Frederic Foley, who invented it back in 1929!

These catheters can be attached to a catheter bag or valve. Shop Optimum is proud to provide a wide choice of catheter drainage accessories, so you can find one which fits with your lifestyle. Browse our range and find the perfect products for you by clicking here.

Suprapubic catheter

A suprapubic catheter enters the bladder through a small incision made in the abdomen, under your belly button. The procedure can be carried out under general anaesthetic, epidural anaesthetic or local anaesthetic. A suprapubic catheter is used when the urethra is damaged or blocked, or when someone is unable to use an intermittent catheter. A benefit of suprapubic catheters is they can make sex easier compared to using urethral catheters – although that’s not to say you can’t have sex with a urethral catheter (you can)!

Intermittent catheter (ISC catheter)

Intermittent catheters are inserted (by you) when you need to empty your bladder, then removed straight afterwards. There are some reasons why intermittent catheterisation isn’t a good option for some people. For example, you need good dexterity in your fingers to be able to insert the catheter, and you also need to be able to remember to empty your bladder at regular intervals. This type of catheterisation is often abbreviated to ISC, which stands for 'intermittent self-catheterisation'.

The thought of inserting and removing a catheter yourself can feel daunting, but many people say it becomes easy with practice. You’ll be taught the correct procedure by a healthcare professional, who should be able to answer any questions you might have. Most of these catheters come pre-lubricated, making them more comfortable to insert and remove.

Condom catheter

Condom catheters (sometimes referred to as sheaths or penile sheaths), look very similar to condoms and have a tube on the end to allow for connection to a catheter bag for the collection of urine. The inside of the sheath is coated with a skin-friendly adhesive and this holds it in place when applied to the penis. Because they’re non-invasive (condom catheters don’t involve anything going inside the body), there’s less risk of infection. Condom catheters are a good way of collecting urine in men who have no urinary retention or urinary obstruction and can use their hands well enough to be able to use the catheter themselves.

How will I know which type of catheter is best for me?

Your clinician will be able to advise on your options and provide advice on which type of catheter they think will be most suitable for you. If you already have a catheter and want to know more about one of the other types of catheter mentioned in this blog post, please don’t hesitate to ask your GP for more information.

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