External catheters or penile sheath catheters are prescribed for patients that have urinary incontinence or other illnesses that cause urine leakage or an inability to hold in urine. Catheters are fitted onto the male organ much like a condom and they connect to an external collection bag that holds the waste product until it can be emptied and disposed of. They are generally considered leak-proof if used and connected correctly and here are some tips to use them properly.
The Right Fit
There is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy with the use of male external catheters. Have yourself measured by the doctor and get just the right size of catheter. Sizes that are too large can be very uncomfortable with clothing and can result in urine building up and not draining properly into the tube. A catheter that is too large can also cause the device to rub against the skin or cause it to create folds which again leads to leakages.
An external catheter that is too small for the patient’s organ similarly can result in leakage as the device can fall off, have difficulty staying on or can cause rashes or dermatitis due to prolonged close contact with the sensitive skin without any breathing room. When getting measured for a catheter, consider what feels most comfortable to you personally as some sizes can deliberately pinch or hurt even though the doctor may consider it the right size for you.
A Clean Canvas
For obvious reasons, the presence of pubic hair in the region can cause an obstruction in the way a male or condom catheter functions. Have a schedule of neatly trimming back the hair or shaving them off regularly so you have a clean canvas to work with when attaching and reattaching your catheter. You can use razors or electric shavers or trimmers or even hair removal cream depending on the method of hair removal you are most comfortable with.
The hair present in the area should be ideally less than a quarter of an inch as hair longer than that will get caught in any adhesives that are used and generally cause discomfort with the use of the device. If hair are caught in the glue/adhesive then it can get ripped out from the root causing pain or bleeding and it may also cause excessive moisture to get built up, leading to rashes.
Changing Your Catheter
Most patients change their catheter and clean it once a day. When showering use a gentle intimate wash or soap and water to wash the penis and then use a paper towel or soft towel to dry it. Allow a few extra minutes for the area to air dry completely.
For best results avoid using products that are very hydrating or ones that have lotion or humectants mixed in. Even for people with drier skin, intimate areas are usually prone to sweating and moisture accumulation which can be worsened by hydrating products.
For patients living in very warm climates, the cleaning process may need to be done twice a day or more depending on the temperature and the skin type. It is ideal to use a fan or an air conditioner when changing out your catheter so that sweating can be avoided. This is not required for patients living in colder climates.
Catheters generally can safely stay on for 24 hours and more in some cases so it is certainly not necessary to change them twice a day if the heat is tolerable. If you are someone prone to rashes, then changing out more than once a day may be preferable along with an application of zinc oxide cream or antibiotic cream.
Many people that have been suffering from urinary incontinence or similar issues for a while may have damaged or lacerated skin that either has rashes and inflammation or is prone to these problems. If you have open sores or inflamed skin, always seek the opinion of a dermatologist before applying a catheter as the latter will worsen any existing skin problem. Once your skin issue is resolved and healed, you can move ahead with the application of the catheter.
Applying A Catheter Properly
An incorrect way of applying a catheter is when there are visible folds of skin that are jumbled on top of each other. When applying, smooth the catheter one and ensure there are no folds of skin collecting together. For new users, this may take a few tries to get right. The adhesive should be applied evenly and properly as every patient wants to prevent the ‘pop-off’ phenomenon.
Carrying an underpad with you is just a sensible daily practice as pop-offs can absolutely happen even if you’ve done the preemptive care and chosen the right size. The underpad provides a much-needed temporary solution so that any leakage can be curtailed just until you can find a restroom to change the catheter. Carrying a kit that has an extra catheter and suitable adhesive is essential. Once you get to a restroom you can discard the underpad and the leaking catheter and apply a fresh one.
Staying Ahead Of Your Orders
Be mindful of the availability of your catheters in terms of the brand so that you do not suddenly run out. Have a list of the stores and pharmacies near you that stock the brand and type of catheter you use and do the same with regard to online medical supply stores.
To be on the safe side always have at least 10 catheters in your home as backups as sudden weather changes or a busy lifestyle can come in the way of restocking. If you exclusively order catheters online ensure you have more than 10 as backups as many situations can delay online shipments and products can easily go out of stock faster.
When the time comes to change your catheter, always employ a gentle hand as ripping off a catheter can cause skin to burn or get cut which will make it difficult to comfortably apply the catheter again.