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What are All the Different Types of Catheters?

What are All the Different Types of Catheters?

Image showing glove nurse hand holding catheter and drainage bag

When you’re prescribed urinary catheters, all the different types of catheters can leave you feeling overwhelmed. What type of catheter do you need? How do you insert the catheter? What size catheter is right for you? Fortunately, you’re physician or healthcare professional can help you with these questions; but, it’s best to know the basics to help you discuss what’s best for you and your health.

Below, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about different types of catheters – from sizing to different styles, to tip options and what works best for men and women.

Why Are Catheters Prescribed?

When your physician prescribes catheters for you, it’s because you’re having trouble regulating the normal function of emptying your bladder of urine. Different types of catheters can help with this problem by providing a method of relieving urinary retention, assisting with urinary incontinence, or supporting a situation where mental or cognitive issues prevent proper bladder control. These urinary conditions can be both temporary or long term and result from conditions such as labor, dementia, paralysis, prostate enlargements, hysterectomies, surgery, and more.

Different Types of Catheters

The different types of catheters available is extensive in order to support the wide range of medical needs and varying anatomies. Your healthcare provider can help determine which type of catheter will work best for you, be the most efficient, and provide the most comfort. Take a look below at some of the main types of catheters that your doctor may discuss with you.

Image of gloved hand holding intermittent catheter

Intermittent Catheters

Intermittent catheters are one of the most commonly prescribed styles of catheters. This type of catheter is generally single use and meant to be used and discarded, this giving it the common name of “in and out” catheter. Intermittent catheters are connected to a drainage bag that can then be disposed of or emptied into the toilet. Both ambulatory and non-ambulatory patients use intermittent catheters, which are generally easy to place and drain.

Usage: Self-cathing patients, caregivers

Image showing foley catheter

Foley Catheters

This type of catheter is usually placed by a nurse or doctor through the urethra or in an abdominal incision and is very often used in a hospital or nursing setting. An indwelling catheter, or Foley catheter, is placed inside a patient’s bladder and left there for long periods of time. A balloon at the end of the catheter indicates when it’s time for this catheter to be removed and will usually need to be removed by a physician or nurse as most patients using this type of catheter cannot cath themselves.

Usage: Hospitals, nursing homes, caregivers

Image showing closed system catheter

Closed System Catheters

In a closed system kit, the catheter is pre-connected to a urine collection bag and the catheter is pre-lubricated; this allows for reduction in touching with bare or gloved hands, thus reducing the chance for bacterial contamination. Many patients prefer this type of catheter because it is easy to cath any where and at anytime.

Usage: Self-cathing patients, caregivers

Image showing a gloved hand holding a male catheter

External Catheters

External catheters are often preferred by both men and women due their design being slightly less invasive. Female urethral inserts and condom catheters are both examples of external catheters, which are both placed outside of the body. Male condom catheters are fitted over the head of the penis and connected to a tube that drains into a collection bag, while female urethral catheters are generally custom fitted by a urologist and go into the urethra near the end of the bladder.

Usage: Self-cathing patients, caregivers

Image showing hydrophilic packaged catheter

Hydrophilic Catheters

Hydrophilic catheters have a hydrophilic coating that, when activated by water, will lubricate the catheter for easy placement. Some hydrophilic catheters are already activated and in self-contained packaging. Many patients prefer this type of catheter due to the ease-of-use and the reduction in contamination possibility with pre-lubrication. 

Usage: Self-cathing patients, caregivers

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French size chart for catheters for men

Catheter Sizes

Different types of catheters are sized using the French size method which indicates the size of the catheter tubing. Catheter tubing sizes are measure in millimeters. 

To figure out what the French size of a catheter tube is, the millimeter diameter size of a catheter is multiplied by 3. For instance, if a catheter has a millimeter size of 4, then this would be multiplied by 3 which would give you a French size of 12. 

The colors indicated in the sizing chart above correspond with the funnel attachments used with different types of catheters. It’s important that catheter tubing is sized appropriately, otherwise the urine either may not drain fast enough or can cause pain for the user. Your physician or urologist can help determine the right French size for your catheter.

Catheter Insertion Tips

Your healthcare provider will help determine which catheter insertion tip is right for you. It’s important to discuss this closely with your provider because the catheter tip you choose directly correlates with your comfort level. 

There are two main catheter tips used with catheters:

Coudé Tip: Coudé tips are bent or curved on the end. This type of catheter tip works well for patients who have certain medical conditions, such as certain cancers, or a urethral blockage. This type of catheter tip is used in women, but most often used for men.

Straight Tip: Straight tips allow for comfortable insertion for most patients and have no curve or bend at the end.

Image showing a man and woman near a wall

Are there Different Types of Catheters for Men and Women?

Men and women often use the same types of catheters. However, sometimes certain medical situations and varying anatomical differences can call for catheters that work more specifically for men or women.

  • Female Urethral Inserts: Female urethral catheters are generally custom fitted and go into the urethra near the end of the bladder to create a seal. The are connected to a tube that drains into a collection bag for disposal.
  • Male External Catheters: Male  external catheters, also known as condom catheters, fit over the male’s penis and are held in place using adhesive or straps. This type of urinary catheter is changed often and drains directly into a collection bag for disposal.

Using Different Types of Catheters

Catheters are designed to be easily placed by most people, whether self-cathing or through the assistance of a caregiver. Your physician or healthcare professional will help train you on using catheters initially and determine the best and easiest way for you to place them yourself or with assistance. It’s important that you always consult with your healthcare professional first when using a new medical device or any different type of catheter. 


Are My Catheters Covered by Insurance?

When prescribed by your medical professional and deemed medically necessary, catheters are helpful, safe, and comfortable; but they also can be covered at no cost to you by Medicare, Medicaid, and most healthcare insurances nationwide. Active Life Medical’s team of customer service experts are here to answer any of your catheter questions and can walk you through the process of getting your supplies billed directly and accurately to your insurance. We strive to make the entire process easy  and hassle-free by collecting necessary paperwork from your doctors, coordinating billing with your insurance, and delivering your necessary catheters discreetly right to the convenience of your doorstep. Plus, we have one of the largest selections of catheters in the industry and only work with top brands. Your in good hands with Active Life – Give us a call at 800-319-2336 today.

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