By Olivia Wolfe

Half a century ago, living with a catheter seemed terrifying. Even now, the idea of having this aid attached to you at all times can feel daunting and leave you questioning every aspect of your life. But that’s a dated mindset. Science has been making strides in the previous decades and incredible innovations have made it possible for you to lead a full life with a catheter.

Will it require adjustment? Yes, of course, as keeping your health in check usually does. This doesn’t mean you have to forego all the activities you love – you just need to get accustomed to a new routine. Here’s what you can expect from long-term catheter use and some things you can do to ensure you maintain your quality of life.

How Long-Term Catheter Use Affects Your Life

There are different reasons why your doctor can recommend you use a catheter for a prolonged period (4 weeks and more is considered long-term). The reasons can vary from injury, illness, and surgery to urinary incontinence and/or retention, and whatever the cause is, using a catheter might be the safest for your bladder health and the most comfortable solution for you.

Types of Catheters

Depending on your condition, your urologist will recommend a course of treatment that best fits your needs. There are 3 different types of catheters, and whichever the doctor prescribes, you should get detailed instructions on how to use them safely.

Intermittent catheters are, as their name says, the ones you’ll use from time to time and are the least invasive, both when it comes to your body and your lifestyle. This type of catheter is most frequently used by people struggling with urinary retention – the inability to completely empty their bladder. Intermittent catheters are the easiest ones to use and each can only be used once. You’ll either have a daily schedule for when to use it or you’ll use it as often as you need to to make sure your bladder stays empty and healthy.

Indwelling catheters are the ones that remain in your body, making it easier to manage urinary incontinence and retention. They come with a drainage bag that stays firmly attached to your leg to ensure complete drainage. This type of catheter is mostly used among the elderly with limited or no mobility, as well as after bladder surgery. Another option is to use diapers, but that’s usually a less comfortable option, especially because diaper rash in adults can get very painful. Indwelling catheters are easier to maintain and live with in the long run.

Suprapubic catheters are the ones that require a small surgical procedure in order to get the drainage tube directly into the bladder, from which it can empty it into a drainage bag as necessary. The main benefit of a suprapubic catheter is that it’s more convenient than the indwelling kind for sexually active people. Having a suprapubic catheter gives you more freedom in your everyday life and activities, which is the reason many people choose it, even though the procedure itself takes more preparation and recovery.

As you can see, each of the catheters can help with a variety of health conditions, depending on their severity and your unique needs. Talk to your urologist about any worries and questions you might have, they’re trained, experienced, and will be able to steer you in the right direction.

How to Maintain Your Quality of Life with a Catheter

As you’re getting used to a new reality in which the use and maintenance of the catheter become the norm, things can get rough for a while, which is to be expected. Here it’s very important to keep a positive outlook and optimize your life in a way your urinary health is a priority, but you still get to everything you love. 

Maintaining your quality of life is of utmost importance, and here are some steps you can take today to make it happen.

Preparation Is Everything

Experienced catheter wearers know that preparation is key to success. Whether you’re traveling, moving more than usual, or changing your diet, pay extra attention to your catheter needs. Leakage and blockage can happen in any situation, so it’s a good idea to always have extra clothes and catheter supplies with you. It’s also important to drink plenty of water and eat food rich in fiber to minimize the chances of this happening. Finally, keep a look out for leaks in your catheters, which can happen when one of the catheter parts isn’t properly secured.

Hygiene Comes First

There’s no overstating just how important it is to keep your catheter sterilized and your hands clean when you’re changing it. After you take out your catheter, wash the area with warm water and soap for sensitive skin, to prevent irritation and infection. The drainage bag should be emptied regularly when it’s a bit more than half full. You should also know how to sort out blockages in the tube when they occur so that you don’t your bladder doesn’t suffer from extra pressure because of retained urine. 

Keep an Eye on Gadgets and Updates

Even though wearing a catheter comes with its challenges, this is the best time in history for it because technology makes our lives easier every day. Do research to figure out what types of catheters there are and whether they suit your needs. There are gadgets out there that can make the whole experience much easier and more dignified, so make the most of it.

Reach Out

If you’re struggling with adapting to your new routine, don’t stay quiet about it. Reach out to your loved ones and ask for advice, talk to your urologist or therapist. If you need more reassurance, consider joining a support group where you can share your experience and questions with people who have gone through a similar situation and can relate. Health struggles are layered and difficult to navigate, and having the support you need will make your life infinitely better.

As you can see, using a catheter for a prolonged period isn’t the end of the world, though it might feel like it when you first get the news. It’s essential to remember that you’re in charge of your narrative and your perspective decides how this next chapter of your life will look. Make it a good one!

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