What are urinary catheters?

Regarding the question of catheter pain, the answer varies because it’s a different experience for everyone. For some, inserting a catheter might be painful or uncomfortable, while others don’t find it painful at all. 

Catheters are small tubes that you can insert through your urethra for draining urine. Your doctor may recommend using this product either temporarily or permanently because of the following reasons:

  • Urinary incontinence
  • Urinary retention
  • Genital or prostate surgery
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Dementia

Physical discomfort depends largely on the reason the urinary catheter is required. For example, a urinary catheter used for surgery usually gets inserted when the patient is asleep or has received a spinal block, so it will not hurt. Depending on the health condition the urinary catheter is being used for, a patient might feel the urinary catheter. 

Conditions associated with catheter pain

Catheterization can typically be painful for two parts of your urinary system: the urethra and bladder. Since this tube will pass through both areas, it may cause pain and/or bladder spasms.  

For urethral pain, you may feel a burning sensation in your urethra, and it might also be painful to urinate after the removal of a urinary catheter for the first few times after removal. Meanwhile, bladder spasms may feel like stomach or menstrual cramps because your detrusor muscles will intensely and randomly contract. 

Catheter Pain: CAUTI

You may also experience pain after the use of a urinary catheter if you have a catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI). You might feel a burning sensation in your lower abdomen or while urinating. CAUTI happens when germs travel along your catheter or are introduced upon insertion and infect your urinary tract. Initially, your catheter is sterile, but it may become contaminated upon contact with your hands and other surfaces. 

Catheter pain factors and how to treat them

Many factors can affect why a catheter feels unpleasant. When that happens, something might be wrong with how the tube was inserted. And an improper technique may cause further complications such as bacterial buildup and urethral injury. Here are some other factors you need to look out for and ways to address them:

Lack of lubrication

An unlubricated or dry catheter can cause damage to your urethra since friction between the two can lead to micro-tears, which can cause pain or discomfort during catheterization, urethral trauma, bleeding, and scar formation. 

To ease catheter-induced discomfort, apply a water-soluble lubricant or silicone-based oil to the tube. Choosing a lubricant is important because some might make the pain worse or give you an infection. You may also opt to purchase a pre-lubricated catheter that’s ready for insertion. 

Catheter material

You may experience discomfort if you have allergies to the catheter material. Latex allergy, for example, may cause pain and other signs such as hives, itching, or irritation. If you experience these symptoms, use other catheters like polyurethane or silicone ones. 

Catheter tip

Catheterization might be a painful experience for you due to anatomical reasons. Consult your healthcare team to see if you should switch to a straight or a bent tip, depending on your health condition,

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

The risk of a UTI becomes particularly high if the catheter remains in place. Bacteria may also grow if your urine stays in your bladder. So, catheterize four to six times a day if you’re required to do so. 

Prolonged catheterization

Some catheters, such as Foley or indwelling urinary catheters, can stay in your bladder for an extended period. However, health care professionals often encourage removal as soon as possible in order to help prevent catheter-associated infections and bladder discomfort. The health care team avoids using an indwelling urinary tube unless necessary.  Seek medical advice before using this type of catheter. 

Forceful insertion

When you feel resistance while inserting a catheter, you should not force it in. A regular insertion is typically smooth, so adding more pressure may harm your urethra. By forcing, you can create trauma and develop scarring, trauma, or a false passage. If you encounter resistance, attempt to catheterize later. If you still can’t gently push it through, it’s best to seek assistance and training from a urology expert. 

Catheter pain care

Taking extra precautions can help prevent pain from a urinary catheter. So, it’s important to practice catheter care even if you don’t feel any discomfort. After all, you have to replace it from time to time. Below are some basic guidelines you may follow for a painless catheter experience:

  • Clean your catheter tube towards the collection bag

Maintaining a clean catheter appliance can help eradicate harmful bacteria. Gently wash your drainage bag with warm water and soap. Then, wipe the drainage tubes with an alcohol wipe. Along with the appliance, wash your skin daily or after every bowel movement to avoid infections. Some catheters may follow a different cleaning method, so it’s best to ask your healthcare provider before washing it.

  • Wear your catheter properly

Use sealed and preconnected catheter systems to keep your tube secure. The tube should have no kinks and twists to prevent urine backflow, which can also cause infections. The bag should always be kept below the catheter insertion point. Never lift the bag above the insertion point so as to prevent urine from flowing back into the bladder.

  • Empty your drainage bag

While catheterizing, it’s essential to completely drain your urine to prevent infection and other forms of discomfort. For Foley catheters, you can place your drainage bag right below the level of your bladder. You can also use other collection pouches such as leg bags as long as they can withstand long activities. Meanwhile, leave the flexible tube inserted until you feel your urine stop if you’re using an indwelling catheter. Give it a final, gentle push on your lower abdomen to be sure. 

Warning signs along with catheter pain

Discomfort from your catheter might be a warning sign of a serious disease. Consult your healthcare provider immediately if you notice that your pain isn’t going away or have the other symptoms below. Otherwise, it can lead to bladder damage, UTI, kidney damage, and other complications. Here’s what you might want to monitor:

  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Urethral swelling
  • Urine leakage around the catheter area
  • Fever
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Blood or blood clots in your urine
  • Stones or sediments in your urine
  • Chills
  • Skin sores
  • Limited urine output
  • Bladder stones
  • Urethral blockage

Discover the best catheter for you

Finding a suitable catheter can be a costly journey since you might have to test several types and accessories. But it’s worth it because you may achieve a comfortable catheterization in the process. To help you choose, get in touch with us at Better Health. We have experts who can recommend products that may be compatible with you. At the same time, we’ll also handle your insurance paperwork to ensure that you don’t overpay. Call us at 415-475-8444 now.

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