Sometimes, one has medical conditions that make it necessary to use a catheter for long-term bladder management. While catheters may be uncomfortable and inconvenient at first, they can be very liberating once you get accustomed to them. It is also possible to live a reasonably normal life with a catheter without being confined to your home, as long as you observe some basic rules.
Living with a catheter
Catheters can be an uncomfortable and awkward experience in the beginning. Learning to insert the catheter and draining the bladder with it will take practice and time. Then there is the matter of wearing a urine collection bag against your leg, changing it and emptying it throughout your day. The positive thing is that a majority of patients report they can continue their lives as normal, doing many things that they did before needing a catheter. If it helps, just think of it as an external bladder that helps your body perform its natural bodily functions.
Adopting a new routine
A catheter user’s daily routine may vary according to the type of catheter that they are using.
Before you start using a catheter, a medical professional would have spent time explaining the use of the catheter and providing you with a supply of equipment to last for some time. You may also want to carry spare equipment when you’re going out or travelling.
You may also consider switching to loose clothing to conceal the urine collection bag on your leg. Other helpful tips include taping the bag to your abdomen to avoiding ‘tugging’, or alternating the leg that carries the bag to prevent soreness and rash. Keep in mind also that you can change the kind of catheter you use if the current one isn’t working for you, or if your medical conditions change.
Regular activities with a catheter
Having a urinary catheter shouldn’t stop you from carrying out most of your daily social activities. You can still go to work, socialise, exercise or go on holiday, although you should get a doctor’s advice first. It is even possible to return to an active sex life with an intermittent catheter or a suprapubic catheter. Indwelling catheters can be more challenging, but it should still allow you to have sex with them in place, or to remove and replace it afterwards.
Know the signs to look out for
While you can return to a normal daily life, you should still keep an eye out for the status of your catheter. Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You develop severe or ongoing bladder spasms that feel like stomach cramps.
- Your catheter is blocked, or urine leaks around the edges.
- Your urine is coloured with or contains specks of blood in it. It may be a sign that the catheter was accidentally pulled on.
- You’re passing bright red blood.
- You develop symptoms of catheter-associated UTI (CAUTI) like lower abdominal pain, a high temperature and chills.
- Your indwelling catheter falls out and you were not taught how to replace it.
Having a long-term urinary catheter increases your risk of developing urinary tract infections. This is due to the tube exposing the bladder to external bacteria from the skin and urethra, and sometimes acting as a surface for bacterial colonies to grow on. This is known as a catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) and is one of the most serious hospital-related infections there are.
To minimise the risks of CAUTIs, you should:
- Wash around the area where the catheter enters the body with mild soap and water at least twice daily.
- Wash your hands with warm soap and water before and after touching your catheter equipment.
- Stay hydrated – drink enough fluids so that your urine stays light coloured.
- Avoid constipation – staying hydrated can help with this, as can eating high-fibre foods, such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods.
- Avoid kinks in the catheter, and make sure that any urine collection bags are kept below the level of the bladder at all times.
- Consider UroShield, a device that can help reduce the incidence of infection, as well as offering some relief from catheter-related pain and bladder spasms.
How UroShield can help CAUTIs
UroShield is a small, external device which clips onto the end of catheters and produces low-frequency ultrasound waves.
These waves run along the full length of the catheter and give gentle vibrations which cannot be felt by the catheter user. These sound waves and ‘vibrations’ from the UroShield help to prevent bacteria from sticking to and building up on the catheter, therefore preventing encrustations, infections and blockages. They also break up biofilm, which are bacterial colonies that are resistant to antibiotics. Finally, UroShield can offer some people relief from catheter-related pain and bladder spasms.
To find out more, give us a call on 020 8773 7844, or fill out our Online Form.
If you found this article useful, take a look at:
- How UroShield can help patients with urinary incontinence
- Which catheter should I choose?
- Living with a catheter
This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.