What exactly is a catheter?
There are many different types, but a urinary catheter consists of a tube that's placed within the body to aid in the drainage and collection of urine from the bladder. Catheters are typically attached to drainage bags (some of which have parts that allow for easy one-handed drainage) by the use of catheter plugs and caps.
Why might I need a catheter?
Urinary catheters are typically inserted when a patient cannot empty his/her bladder, not being able to control urination, or as a post-surgery action. Some medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis and dementia can also require catheter insertion. Catheters may be used as a short-term solution or as a long-term result. Even though catheters, drainage bags, and catheter plugs and caps require a fair amount of maintenance, they can still greatly improve your quality of life.
How do I clean my drain bags?
Be sure to wash your hands prior to and after cleaning your catheter drain bags. Use warm water and soap to gently wash the catheter area, then pat dry. Cleaning your drainage bags after every use will help to prevent infection. Use a mixture of white vinegar and water to rinse your drainage bag (alternatively, you can use a bleach solution to disinfect it). Do not rinse the bag with water after this step, but simply hang up to dry. You should change your drainage bags after one month of use, and you will need to empty your leg bag when it is half-full (typically, at least twice per day).
How do I know if I have an infection?
Although thorough and regular cleaning can help prevent them, urinary tract infections are quite common with catheter use. If you experience a fever, lower abdominal pain, burning during urination, or bloody urine, contact your doctor right away; although these symptoms can all have other causes, it's important to not take a chance with a catheter-related infection. That being said, not everyone with a UTI or other infection experiences these symptoms, so it's important to be in tune with any small changes to your health or how you feel.
Can I enjoy normal life with a catheter?
In most situations, yes! This largely depends on the underlying reason for having the catheter in the first place, but the use of the catheter should not disrupt most aspects of your life. In many cases, patients are not permitted to operate a vehicle for safety reasons. For some activities, there are certain precautions that must be taken (for example, you can maintain sexual activities with a catheter, but some adjustments usually need to be made). In general, you should not eat or drink anything that may irritate your bladder. In some cases, it may affect your speed and ability to walk or cross your legs. However, most people do not have to give up their daily activities -- you may just have to take a little more time preparing for them.
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