Urinary incontinence is involuntary bladder control. Urinary incontinence comes in several different varieties.
It is a potentially embarrassing condition, but more people are affected than you think. In fact, more 25 million people in the US alone suffer from urinary incontinence, as stated by the National Association for Continence.
Learning about the various different types of incontinence and catheters available will help determine the best option for your patient-specific needs.
- Stress Incontinence – sporadic urinary leaks when coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising.
- Urge Incontinence – the sudden, overwhelming need to urinate with the immediate involuntary loss of urine afterward.
- Overflow Incontinence – when the bladder fails to completely empty and results in a frequent or constant dribble of urine.
- Functional incontinence – when a person is aware of the need to urinate but fails to make it to the restroom due to physical or mental reasons.
- Mixed urinary incontinence – any combination of two types of incontinence
The type and severity of incontinence will determine your specific treatment. Some people need a slim absorbable pad. Others can strengthen their pelvic floor to regain control of the bladder.
If someone has difficulty fully emptying the bladder, a urinary catheter could be a good treatment option. Catheters prevent the bladder from becoming overly full and backing up into the kidneys. If urine backs up into the kidneys, the urine can cause kidney damage.
Three Main Types of Catheters
Intermittent, indwelling, and external are the main catheters types. Most doctors prescribe intermittent catheters because they are safe, easy to use, and afford people a high level of independence. Indwelling catheters are used for long-term catheterization. External catheters, also known as condom catheters, are available only to men.
Intermittent catheters are safer because they are single use catheter. The less time a foreign object is in the body, the less likely an infection will happen. A person inserts an intermittent catheter to fully drain the bladder a few times during the day. After the bladder is emptied, the person will dispose of the catheter.
Intermittent catheters have different features to consider that can improve the catheterization process. Hydrophilic catheters have a lubricate coating. Newer catheters have an antibacterial coating to further protect from infection.
There are two different shapes of intermittent catheters — straight catheters and coude tip catheters. Coude tip catheters are specifically designed for men with a swollen prostate. The prostate could block a straight catheter, but the Coude tip has a slight bend. The bend curves around the prostate and allows for an easier insertion into the bladder. As the name implies, straight catheters do not have a bend.
Indwelling catheters (Foley catheters) stay inserted for an extended amount of time. Instead of using the catheter for individual instances to drain the bladder, indwelling catheters collect urine into a drainage bag that is emptied when full. Indwelling catheters are typically changed once a month and inserted by a physician or healthcare professional.
The healthcare professional can insert through the urethra or through a small hole in the stomach. To keep the catheter inserted, a small balloon is inflated. To remove the catheter, a healthcare professional will deflate it.
Because external catheters wrap around the penis, they are commonly called condom catheters. Similar to an indwelling catheter, external catheters connect to a drainage bag strapped to the inner thigh. External catheters can be more comfortable for some users and offer a lower chance of infection than internal ones.
Choosing the Right Type of Catheter
Your best resource to find the right catheter will be your physician; in fact, your physician will prescribe the best catheter to fit your specific needs. Understanding the different types of catheters available will help you understand why and how your type of incontinence needs to be managed.
Intermittent catheterization gives the user control and freedom. It reduces risks such as leaking, urinary tract infections (UTI’s), bladder spasms, and upper urinary tract deterioration. Indwelling catheters are typically used for specific situations like if the urethra is obstructed, the patient is bedridden, paralyzed or unconscious, or urine output needs to be monitored.
Purchasing disposable incontinence products is costly. Fortunately, most insurance plans do cover catheters. Medicare and Medicaid both cover catheters and catheter supplies. Medicare offers a reimbursement on 200 sterile, intermittent catheters a month.
Medicaid coverage varies from state to state. Typically, Medicaid will reimburse for 120 intermittent catheters per month. Most private insurances will cover catheters, but that depends on the plan’s coverage.