How to Use a Catheter - Tips for Self Catheterization

Most people experience discomfort or perhaps even fear when their Doctor first prescribes self catheterization. It can be a bit intimidating to even think about, but by educating yourself and following best practices, you can become confident and ensure that you are using your catheter safely.

This article outlines some tips for those who are new to self catheterization. Keep in mind that many thousands of people have to self catheterize everyday and are going through the same or similar experiences as you. With time, your ability to self catheterize will become less uncomfortable and less difficult.

Always Wash Your Hands

We can’t underplay the importance of proper hygiene when using catheters. Always thoroughly wash your hands prior to catheterization. This means that you scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Make sure that you are washing your entire hand – Over your fingers and in between, underneath your nails, your palm, the back of your hand, and your wrists.

Clean the Urethra Opening

Whether your male or female, your have a urethra. If you do not clean the opening prior to catheterization, there is a good chance that the catheter will push the bacteria that is on the surface up into your urethra which can cause a lot of issues such as urinary tract infections. Simply clean the opening with soap and water or use some sort of anti-septic wipe – that’ll do the trick!

Is Catheterization Supposed to Hurt?

Although uncomfortable, there should not be a lot of pain involved in catheterization. However, if performed improperly, you can feel a lot of pain as well as cause bleeding and urethra trauma. To avoid this, always make sure that your catheter is properly lubricated. Many catheters can be bought pre-lubed.

There are difference sized catheters which are usually measured in “French”. I.E. 14FR. You may have to experiment with different sizes to make sure that you are using the size that works best for you.

Empty Your Bladder Regularly

Typically, it’s recommended to use your catheter 4-6 times daily to empty your bladder. If you wait too long before emptying, bacteria can form and multiply which is more likely to cause infection. Always make sure to hold the catheter in until your bladder is completely emptied.

Never FORCE the Catheter

If you’re trying to insert your catheter and are having difficulty – Do not apply more force! This can cause a lot of damage to your urethra. Instead, trying relaxing. Take a few deep breaths and try again. If you continue to try but can not insert the catheter, go to your doctor or emergency room right away.

Using Coudé Tip Catheters

Some people have a difficult time inserting a straight tip catheter. For this issue, they’ve designed coudé  tip catheters which have a slight curve at the end. These are more commonly used by males.

 Never Reuse Single Use Catheters

Although sometimes it may seem economically ideal to get more than one use out of your catheter, doing so can result in UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) and other infections which are far from pleasant.

Drink Water & Stay Hydrated

If you get dehydrated and are unable to void your bladder, this allows more time for bacteria to grow and multiply which can lead to infections. It’s typically recommended that you drink 8 glasses of water a day but this can differ depending on your body size or medical conditions. Ask your Doctor how much water intake is right for you.

Spotting a Urinary Tract Infection

Keep an eye out for burning sensations, smelly urine, cloudy urine, as  well as any accompanying fever or chills. If you think that you may have an infection, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor right away to prevent the condition from worsening.