Caring for Your Catheter

Catheter usage requires complete awareness and care because of the risk of infection which could affect the urethra, bladder and even the kidneys. Experts say that after only 24 hours of catheterization, the device is affected by bacteria. This is especially true of indwelling catheters which are used on a longer-term basis and carry the threat of urinary tract infection (UTI).

Care of catheter

Catheter care is key to your overall well being while living with a catheter. This procedure requires following catheter care instructions and implementing advice given you by your doctor or caregiver. This involves being vigilant for alarm signals when cleaning the catheter and/or urine drainage bag or when changing the catheter. You can clean a catheter while in the shower or during change.

Care of catheter is important because even if a minor step is overlooked, it can lead to infections and complications. Catheter care instructions should be strictly followed during catheter insertion, catheter change and while cleaning a catheter. This is especially crucial when caring for your catheter at home in which case all catheter care instructions from your doctor should be observed. You can talk to your doctor on tips on how to care for a catheter. He will also advice you on how to clean a catheter and how to change a catheter.

Catheter care during Insertion

Care of catheter has to be taken during insertion. Men would be advised to wipe the glans penis with disposable iodine or some similar disinfectant before inserting the device. Women should wipe around the urinary opening and labia with a cotton ball, antiseptic towel or baby wipe thoroughly before and after catheter insertion. The movement should be front to back, up and down the middle and both sides. Disposable sterile gloves should be worn to ensure hygiene.

When using an external/condom catheter, intermittent catheter or a Foley catheter care must be taken to ensure hygiene is maintained and all catheter care procedures are followed.

Foley catheter care

Experts advise that the area around the indwelling or Foley catheter should be cleaned well twice daily and with a mild soap and warm water. Dip a washcloth into soapy water to clean the catheter gently and in a move away from the body. Dry yourself thoroughly. It is imprudent to use any lotions or cream in and around the area where the catheter goes in.

Reasons for catheter leakage

Care of catheter includes monitoring leakages. Sometimes, urine manages to leak out despite the catheter being in place. This may happen due to bladder spasms when the bladder involuntarily tries to force the balloon out when the catheter goes in, thus triggering leakage of urine.

There are other reasons, too, for this occurrence. A kink or a twist in the catheter tube could be the culprit leading to a blockage of the eyes. As a result, the urine is expulsed between the catheter shaft and urethra mucosa.

If the catheter used is not the correct size then it could also cause urine to escape from the sides. Therefore, it is important you seek the advice of your doctor about the size right for you. Even the wrong balloon size could lead to leaking. Balloons which are inflated inside the bladder to keep the catheter in place come in different volume capacities.

Some experience leaking during a bowel movement, especially in case of constipation. Abdominal pressure against the bladder increases causing the catheter tip to twist and thereby, forcing the overflow of urine from outside the tubing.

UTI, or urinary tract infection, may also be another reason for urine to leak.

Care of the urine drainage bag and leg bag

Foley catheter care includes taking complete care of the urine drainage bag and leg bag used. It is advisable to keep the urine drainage bag below the waist and to ensure it does not pull on the tubing. Keep a regular check on the amount of urine outflow. Monitor the output levels if you have been asked to do so by your doctor.

When transferring from a day bag to the overnight one or vice versa, wipe the connectors thoroughly with a disinfectant. Because the leg bag is smaller, it needs to be emptied out frequently in comparison with the overnight bag. Every time this is done, care must be taken to wash the hands well with soap and water.

The urine drainage bag and leg bag should be rinsed thoroughly using one part vinegar and 3-4 parts water. Or soak your bag into the solution for 20 minutes and then wash it thoroughly with warm water before hanging it up for drying.

Catheter care alarm bells

If you do not follow catheter care instructions strictly, infections and complications can occur. There are certain signs that should set the alarm bells ringing and require the intervention of your healthcare provider.These are:

  • If there is pain or burning sensation in the bladder, urethra or ache in the lower back

  • If there is fever and chills

  • If the color of urine is red or pink indicating possibility of the presence of blood

  • If the urine is cloudy and foul smelling

  • If the output is not at the required level

  • If the catheter is leaking

  • If there is inflammation or infection around the area where the catheter is inserted