Catheters 101: The Basic Components of Your Intermittent Catheter

catheters 101 basics of intermittent catheters

Are you new to the world of self-catheterization? Whether due to urinary retention, incontinence, neurogenic bladder, a spinal cord injury, or another medical condition requiring the use of a urinary catheter to drain your bladder, 180 Medical is here for you.

We understand that it can feel somewhat unnerving for some people to start cathing for the first time, and that’s why we want to help.

The first and best place to start when you need to start using catheters is to find out the basics, starting with the parts of a catheter.

What is a Catheter?

First, you need to know more about the medical device you’ll be using. A catheter is a flexible, hollow tube that is inserted into the urethra or stoma to drain the bladder of urine.

Doctors direct people to use intermittent catheters for all kinds of reasons. For example, many people use catheters to treat conditions such as bladder retention, neurogenic bladder, and/or urinary incontinence to name a few. Additionally, people who have spinal cord injuries, Spina Bifida, and other conditions that can potentially affect the bladder like Multiple Sclerosis may also use catheters.

Whatever your reason for needing to self-catheterize, you’re not alone.

Catheter Insertion Tips

Next, let’s start going over the parts of your catheter. For starters, the insertion tip is the narrower end of your catheter that inserts into and travels through the urethra to reach the bladder.

All catheters, no matter whether it’s a Foley catheter, straight intermittent catheter, or a closed system catheter kit, will have either a straight tip or a coudé tip. The most common insertion tip is the straight tip, which works for most people quite well.

However, some people are not able to comfortably or easily insert a straight tip catheter. Sometimes, switching to a curved insertion tip, which is known as a coudé tip catheter, is a good solution. Reasons people need coudé catheters may include urethral strictures, enlarged prostate, blockages, false passages, or atrophic vaginas.

The decision to use a coudé tip or a straight tip catheter should be between you and your doctor. If you’re experiencing pain when cathing, please see your doctor as soon as possible.
coudé insertion tip vs straight insertion tip catheters

Catheter Drainage Eyelets

Drainage eyelets are small holes in the catheter tube, which are always positioned on or very near the insertion tip to make draining your urine easier.

Many catheter manufacturers today are working to make catheters more comfortable and safe. Efforts include polishing and recessing these drainage eyelets, which can reduce friction and irritation in the delicate urethral tissues.

Catheter Funnels

On the opposite end of your catheter, you’ll find a funnel. Funnels are also known as connectors because they can potentially connect with receptacles like drain bags or portable urinals.

Depending on the type of catheter you’re using, most of the time you’ll find a specific color of the funnel. This is based on the universal color-coding system, which makes identifying your catheter’s French size much easier.

However, catheters don’t always come with funnel ends. Luer end catheters, also sometimes known as whistle tip catheters, do not feature a funnel or connector. Instead, it’s an open tube.

The choice between a catheter with a funnel or luer end is typically a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer having a funnel for easier gripping without touching the tube itself. The luer end catheters are sometimes preferred because the packaging may be flatter and more discreet.

Catheter Funnel Colors
Catheter funnels often feature the universal color-coding system to identify your catheter’s French size.

Catheter French Sizes

Because everyone has a unique body and needs, we always like to remind our customers that no single catheter out there will work for everyone. The same goes for the size, catheter type, and length of your catheter product.

Catheters are sized by what is called “French sizes,” which refers to the diameter of the catheter tube. These range from pediatric sizes to adult. Most typically, common catheter sizes can be anywhere from 5 Fr – 24 Fr.

Thanks to a universal color-coding system, you can simply look at the funnel end to make sure you’re using the prescribed French size. Exceptions to this rule are when you choose luer end catheters or red rubber latex catheters, which do not use the color-coding system.
catheter funnel reference chart

With the right French size, urine should flow from your bladder at a timely pace while keeping you comfortable.

A catheter that is too small will let urine flow around the sides of the tube, which can make quite a mess. On the other hand, you don’t want a catheter that is too big for your urethra, which could cause discomfort or pain.

Your doctor will select and prescribe the proper French size with you, taking into consideration your preferences as well as your particular anatomy.

Catheter Lengths

You have three different length options when it comes to catheters.

Women and children generally use shorter lengths because of their shorter urethras, although some prefer male catheters. If you’re looking for a shorter catheter or something more discreet, 180 Medical carries plenty of travel-ready pocket catheter options.

Curious if your insurance covers catheters? We can verify your insurance plan for you to see if and how your catheter products may be covered.

intermittent catheter size and length comparison

 

Catheter Specialists

Do you have any other questions about urinary catheters? You’ve come to the right place.

At 180 Medical, we specialize in urethral catheter products. When you contact us, you know you’re speaking with a well-trained Catheter Specialist who can help you find the intermittent catheter that’s right for you. Plus, we’re here for any and all product questions. Contact us today!

Disclaimer: Please note that this is intended to provide a general understanding of the basics of intermittent catheters. It should not be used in place of any recommendations or instructions from your prescribing physician or other professional healthcare professional. Together, with your doctor’s office, 180 Medical can help you find a catheter that works for you.

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About the Author
Jessica is a Marketing Specialist at 180 Medical, and she's been a part of the 180 family for 10 years. Her favorite part of working here is the positive impact we make on our community and in peoples' lives.

She loves cooking plant-based meals at home, listening to podcasts, creative writing, and taking walks with her dogs.