Catheters are devices that drain urine from the bladder. Men may need catheters for a variety of reasons. A male catheter may be used to manage urinary incontinence or the inability to control the bladder. They may need them to deal with urinary retention, or the inability to urinate on their own. Men may also need catheters due to prostate problems or after certain types of surgery.
A catheter might be used periodically, or you might need to use one on an ongoing basis. There are several different types of male catheter and the appropriate type for you depends on the reason you need a catheter, how long you’ll need to use one, and even your personal preference.
Standard catheters, sometimes referred to as straight catheters, are used for intermittent catheterization. A short, hollow tube is inserted through the urethra, the hole at the tip of the penis where urine usually comes out, and into the bladder. Urine drains out through the tube, generally into a toilet or a container such as a urinal. The catheter is removed as soon as urination is complete.
Intermittent catheterization can be performed by a medical professional, like a nurse, or you can learn to do it yourself at home. Men who cannot urinate on their own usually catheterize themselves four to six times a day.
Indwelling catheters, also called Foley catheters, are used when someone needs a catheter in place for an extended period of time. A long, narrow, flexible tube is inserted through the urethra into the bladder and is held in place with a tiny balloon that is inflated with sterile water. The other end of the tube is attached to a bag that collects the urine as it drains continuously from the bladder. Indwelling catheters may be used for just a day or two due to serious illness or injury or after an operation, but they can also be used long-term in other cases.
An indwelling male catheter is usually placed and removed by medical professionals. The balloon needs to be carefully deflated prior to removal so there is no discomfort or damage to the urethra.
External catheters are sometimes used instead of indwelling catheters. Also referred to as condom catheters or Texas catheters, an external male catheter looks a lot like condoms. They are rolled onto the penis much like condoms, too. However, there is an opening at the end that attaches to a tube that drains urine into a collection bag.
An external male catheter is usually changed once a day. Men can put them on themselves or they may be put on by paraprofessionals such as nursing assistants.