Have you or someone you love been diagnosed with a condition that requires catheterization? If so, you’re not alone. There are lots of people both young and old around the world who require catheters on a daily basis. Although the process of inserting a catheter and cleaning it regularly requires a bit of focus and attention, most people who use them daily adjust easily. Catheters offer those who need them the freedom to get back to normal daily activities, unencumbered by urinary issues or bladder dysfunction. The Foley catheter is presently one of the most commonly used types of urinary catheters. If living with a Foley catheter has become a necessity for you, it is important to understand how they work, how they are inserted and removed, and what your normal routine will look like overall.

What is a Foley Catheter?

A Foley catheter is made of hollow, flexible tubing and is inserted into the bladder through the urethra. Once the tubing has reached the bladder, a small Foley balloon at the end of the tube is inflated with sterile water. This balloon helps hold the catheter securely in place. Typically, a Foley catheter is inserted by a doctor or nurse, but it’s quite easy for an individual or their caregiver to clean and maintain them regularly after that. Inserting a Foley catheter can be uncomfortable, but medical practitioners do the best they can to reduce this discomfort. Often, they will apply an anesthetic gel to the area before inserting the catheter, to help numb the area and minimize pain. Once the tubing is in place, the drainage end is attached to a bag that collects the urine. The drainage bag should always be kept below waist level. Most people prefer small, discreet leg bags, which attach securely to the leg with tape or a catheter stabilization device. The bag should be emptied every 2 to 4 hours; but as you adjust to your catheter, you will become aware of your habits and should empty it as needed. At night, a night drainage bag is recommended. Again, this should sit below the level of your bladder, and is usually larger than a leg bag to allow for urine to drain freely throughout the night.

The Basics of Foley Catheter Care

One of the most important aspects of having a Foley catheter is learning how to care for it effectively. This is essential to preventing the development of a catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI), a serious bacterial infection that could be fatal if left untreated. There are two essential things you need to do to prevent bacteria from entering the catheter system:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching any part of the tubing or bag.
  • Shower daily to keep the catheter entry site clean.
In addition to these basic hygiene tips, individuals with catheters should also be careful to avoid leaving their drainage bag above the level of their bladder, and should also take care not to pull, twist, or put pressure on any part of the catheter tubing. In general, catheters should not hurt once they’re in place. If you’re experiencing pain or irritation, you may have a latex allergy. Instead of a traditional latex catheter, try using a silicone catheter.

What Can I Expect After Foley Catheter Removal?

Some people live with catheters permanently, while others only use them temporarily while in recovery from a surgery, illness, or other condition that affects their urinary tract. Removing a Foley catheter is similar to the insertion process. The process can either be completed at home or in a professional medical setting. First, the Foley balloon is deflated using a syringe, and the sterile water that was inside is carefully siphoned away. You will then be asked to take a deep breath in, followed by a long exhale. This helps relax the pelvic floor. As you breathe out, the doctor or nurse will gently pull on the tubing to remove it from your bladder and out through your urethra. After your catheter is removed, you may feel some burning or a stinging sensation in your urethra, but this usually fades after a few days. Your healthcare provider will typically suggest that you drink plenty of water during this time, to help flush away any lingering bacteria. Having a catheter doesn’t need to be a painful experience. Once you’ve adjusted to the sensation and the process of caring for it, it can help you achieve a greater sense of independence and autonomy.

Looking for Foley catheter supplies? We have everything you need available at Allegro Medical.