Catheter pain is is probably greatest when the thing is being put in, and sometimes when it’s being taken out. But after you’ve survived urinary catheter insertion, at least for most people, the worst is over. However, depending on the type of catheter you had installed (a urethral or a suprapubic catheter), you may still experience some catheter pain, especially in the case of an indwelling catheter that is expected to stay in your bladder for awhile – usually from a few days all the way up to forever.
My catheter is of the suprapubic type of indwelling cath. It is a Foley catheter, which means that it is held in place by a balloon inflated with saline inside my bladder. Now as you can imagine, having something the size of a golf ball with a little straw-like tube sticking out of it (that’s where the urine goes in) sitting in your bladder is going to feel odd to some degree, and occasionally cause some pain.
In my case, the catheter pain felt mostly like an urge to pee, which is fairly unpleasant, especially since you cannot just relieve it by going to the bathroom. Your new reality is that you don’t go to the bathroom in the same way anymore. Your bladder pumps out your pee through the catheter. So what do you do about that urge-pain?
So what can you do?
My urologist called it a tickle. The catheter is tickling the inside of my bladder. I don’t really agree that it felt like being tickled, although that would be one way to torture me. I HATE being tickled. Anyway, he said (and this is true) that feeling would diminish over time. But later I started to feel an different kind of catheter pain – a bit sharper and lower down. I called the nurse at Urology and asked about this. He said the catheter was probably sitting low in my bladder and that I could just pull it up. Wait, what!? Yup. He said just to gently pull the tube so that I could raise the position of the balloon and tip of the catheter in my bladder so it wasn’t sitting on the bottom.
I gotta tell you, that was a weird thing to do. But it worked! I’ve seen some on-line warnings against pulling on your catheter, so I was a little surprised when I was told to try it. But my assumption is that those warnings are there to stop people from yanking on them. After all, the ARE held in place by an inflated balloon, and some folks may not know or remember that fact. If they try to remove their own catheter without first deflating the balloon (done with a syringe using the 2nd tube ending), well, it could do some damage and cause some REALLY serious catheter pain.
By way of a disclaimer I am not a doctor or a nurse. So make sure you check with your medical professionals before trying the “pulling method” I described above. But it does work for me. And hopefully it will help you as well.
Since I had a suprapubic catheter, and not one “the normal way” (transurethral or through the penis if you’re a guy:-P), things were a bit different. The balloon of the catheter was supposed to be on the side of the bladder with the tip projecting into the middle space. So pulling it back against the bladder wall made sense. This pulling remedy may not work if the have the catheter the normal way. But there is good news (at present, mainly for the folks in the US though, sorry to say – but watch this space for news on that!)…
The Best Way To Prevent Pinching Pain Entirely
No matter how your catheter is inserted, there is a way to completely eliminate the pinching/sucking of the catheter tip. And that is to use a new type of catheter called The Duette. You can read more details about it here: The Duette – A Better Catheter Than The Foley. But the bottom line is – unlike the standard Foley catheter (Foley is a brand name, BTW), the Duette has 2 balloons with the inlet holes in between them. This means there is no tip at the end to stab the interior of your bladder and to suck on the bladder wall. With the Duette, the little inlet holes can’t make contact with your bladder wall (being between the balloons), and so not only will you not get the pinch pain, but your risk of catheter induced UTI (CAUTI) is reduced due to the reduced trauma. See the video on my article about the Duette.
So how do you get a Duette?
As I alluded to above, Poiesis Medical (the creator of the Duette) cannot ship outside the US. There are a lot of legal hurdles they need to clear to make it practical. And they are working on it hard. But if you are in the US, all you need to do is contact your nearest DME (durable medical equipment) supplier. The Duette does not require a prescription. So you CAN simply purchase them directly from the DME for about $13 apiece. If you are getting your supplies through your medical insurance though, just contact the DME for how to set up billing for that.