a woman buying a catheter

Buying a Catheter

Many patients suffer from conditions that require them to catheterize themselves to empty their bladder. Whenever your bladder is unable to empty itself, which is called urinary retention, or empties itself without control, also known as urinary incontinence, catheterization is necessary.

If you or a patient you're caring for must use a catheter for an extended period of time, you will be required to buy replacements. Here are a few tips for buying this important medical device.


Some brands come lubricated, but many will come dry. Make sure you use a water soluble lubrication, such as E-Z Lubricating Jelly and sterile KY Jelly. Do not use Vaseline or another petroleum-based substance.

Types of Tube

Catheters are made from PVP plastic, latex rubber, and silicone. If you have an allergy to one of these, you will need to use caution to make sure they are not made with that material.

Buying Online

There are many sites that sell catheters online. Each site sells at a different rate, but many of them accept all major medical insurance. If you decide to purchase your catheters from a website, do a little bit of research to make sure the brands the site sells are reputable.

Buying in Stores

You can purchase catheters at your local pharmacy or medical supply store. Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may or may not need a prescription from your physician. Many options can often be purchased without a prescription. A prescription may, however, be necessary in order for your insurance to cover the cost. If you plan to travel, keep a note from your physician on you at all times to be sure you have access to catheters.

Considering Cost

Prices vary depending on the type of material used to make the catheter and the brand that is selling it. Many reusable catheters range from $7 to $12. Disposable options may cost as little as 50 cents each.


If you have reusable catheters, it's important to sterilize them after use. Use warm water and soap to clean the device. If approved by the manufacturer, rinse it again, but this time with a disinfectant such as rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to further sterilize and help dry the tube.

Other Special Considerations

While many catheter packages come with instructions on proper use, it is important for your physician to instruct you on the proper preparation, insertion, and discontinuation. While using catheters is relatively safe, there are some dangers associated with improper use.

Make sure you clean your devices thoroughly and change them often. The risk of infection is heightened when used improperly.

Last Updated: July 25, 2017