Male urinary catheters: a complete guide on how to use

Posted by Wellspect, November 23 2021

In this post, we will talk about the male urinary catheter, a common device that many men use daily to empty their bladder. Even if you’re just a beginner, you don’t need to worry. There are easy solutions for handling catheterisation in a safe and hygienic way. In this guide, we explain all the aspects related to intermittent self catheterisation for men and provide answers to your most common questions.

Male catheter user against a blue blackground

Table of contents:

What is a urinary catheter and what is it used for?

Urinary catheters are devices used to empty the bladder. The catheter consists of a flexible tube that allows urine to leave the bladder. Some catheters also come with an integrated bag that collects the urine. Catheters can be used for many different reasons, both for temporary and long-term use. The most common reasons for needing to practice catheterisation are:

  • Urine retention, difficulty with completely emptying the bladder
  • Urinary incontinence, involuntary loss of urine
  • Surgical interventions
  • Drug therapies

In all cases where the process of evacuating the urine is prevented by a lack of muscle contraction, anatomical and/or functional obstruction of the urethra, long-term catheterisation will be necessary.

How does the bladder work?

The bladder is a hollow organ in which the urine is collected before being evacuated through the urethra, through a several centimetres long passage. A perfectly functioning urinary system allows the body to regulate normal urination but there are several reasons why this process may be disrupted.

The cause of this disruption might be a disease or an injury that affects the ability of the bladder to function normally. Examples include a spinal cord injury, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, enlarged prostate or stroke. With these conditions, catheterisation can become part of the daily routine.

Types of catheters

There are two types of catheters:

  • Indwelling catheters, which will remain in the bladder for several days or even weeks
  • Catheters for Intermittent Self Catheterisation (ISC), which are inserted in order to empty the bladder and removed immediately following the bladder being emptied.

Over time indwelling catheters have become a less commonly used device and are recommended only in particular circumstances. Examples would be when the patient has difficulty managing their own care or has limited dexterity.

Instead, intermittent catheterisation has become a more popular option. It allows emptying of the bladder at regular intervals, several times per day and helps to prevent complications and infections of the upper urinary tract. This is due to increasingly innovative solutions that guarantee hygiene, safety and ease of use.


One of the options for intermittent catheterisation is to use all-in-one kits that help you practice catheterisation in complete safety. These kits include hydrophilic catheters with an integrated bag to collect the urine, a small container with sterile water and a sheath or grip allowing you to carry out the procedure without touching the catheter with your hands.

These kits make it easy to practice catheterisation in a number of situations: in bed, in a wheelchair and also outside the home, for example at the workplace or while travelling. Thanks to these solutions, it is possible for people to regain full autonomy without having to give up peace of mind, safety and hygiene. This should lead to a significant improvement of quality of life socially, professionally and with personal relationships.

What is an indwelling catheter or permanent catheter?

The type of catheter used for indwelling catheterisation is commonly known as a Foley catheter. These catheters have a balloon that is inflated inside the bladder to avoid the catheter coming out, and at the other end, there are two openings (2-way catheter). One to inflate the balloon and the second to expel the urine. In some cases, the catheter has an additional opening (3-way catheter) for bladder irrigation. The opening for urine drainage is connected to a collecting bag, usually attached to the leg or the side of a bed or chair, and must always be below bladder level to facilitate the flow. This bag must be regularly emptied when it gets full.

Another option is to have a suprapubic catheter that is inserted into the bladder through the abdominal wall. All indwelling catheters require healthcare professionals for assistance, as the procedures to insert and remove them periodically requires specific skills.

What is a catheter for Intermittent Self Catheterisation (ISC)?

ISC is typically performed with a single-use hydrophilic catheter. Hydrophilic catheters have a coating on the surface of the catheter that is integral to the catheter itself and is designed to absorb and bind water molecules, which causes the surface of the catheter to become smooth and slippery.

As the process of intermittent catheterisation is deemed easier than indwelling catheterisation, it can be learned with simple training which facilitates safe practice. Using intermittent catheters allows people to empty their bladder autonomously. It guarantees independence and reduces the risk of infections and other complications, which is why it is becoming increasingly common practice.

How to use a urinary catheter

The procedure for the person learning ISC is explained by healthcare professionals during the training period and depends on the type of catheter used. Therefore it is always important to rely on the experience of the professional when learning how to self-catheterise effectively.

It is recommended to practice self-catheterisation according to the prescription from the health care professional. Residual urine in the bladder can cause different complications depending on the volume of the residual.

For more information, you can download our PDF guide "Bladder management and intermittent Self Catheterisation for men" by pressing the button below. 

For Men: Bladder Management and intermittent Self Catheterisation

Recommendations for the correct use of an intermittent catheter

To ensure your wellbeing while practising catheterisation it is advised to follow some simple recommendations:

  • Proper hand hygiene and care of the intimate area are fundamental to preventing possible bacterial infections, called urinary tract infections (UTIs). As with other infections, if not treated in time they can cause complications.
  • Hydration is important: our body needs to take 1.5-2 litres of liquid per day. This fluid travels into the bladder and reduces the risk of infections.
  • Completely empty the bladder several times a day. Regular emptying of the bladder helps to prevent catheter-associated urinary tract infection and possible kidney damage.

Minimising the risk of infections and incontinence contributes to a good quality of life and regaining control of daily routines. It reduces the frequency of visits to the toilet and avoids unnecessary worries about urine smells or wet clothes.

Frequently asked questions about male catheters

Catheterisation can give rise to some hesitation and concern; therefore, at Wellspect, we have decided to collect some of the most common questions and do our best to answer them.

  • Does a catheter hurt?

    If practised correctly, catheterisation does not hurt. However, especially at the beginning, you may feel some sort of discomfort. As you become more confident, this sensation disappears. A hydrophilic self-lubricating catheter guarantees maximum comfort and reduces friction.
  • Is using a catheter difficult?

    When learning to practise self-catheterisation, you may find some difficulties, but with some practice, it becomes part of the daily routines, a bit like brushing your teeth.
  • Do you need a lot of time to learn Catheterisation?

    In the beginning, you may get the feeling that it is a rather long process. However, with practice, and by gaining confidence, the time needed becomes shorter and shorter. For experienced users, it takes little more than a natural visit to the toilet. And the frequency remains more or less the same, in other words about 4-6 times per day.
  • Can intermittent catheters be reused?

    No, they are single-use devices and that is the reason why they need to be used and disposed of. To avoid the risk of infections they must be used only once.
  • Can I use a catheter when I am not at home?

    When at a friend’s or in a public toilet, many people are worried about their privacy. But in these cases, it is possible to use discreet catheters. If you want to dispose of the catheter discreetly it can be useful to take a plastic bag with you. There are some products on the market that are available specifically to meet this need.
  • Can I travel with a catheter?

    Long trips, especially by airplane, can cause concern since at a certain point you need to empty your bladder. Before travelling you can contact your healthcare professional to get advice about choosing the most suitable catheter solution for your trip. There are specific solutions available designed for special needs of this kind. Remember to always carry with you the number of catheters needed for your entire trip as there may be challenges getting them in the country that you are travelling to. Always keep some catheters in your hand baggage just in case. For security controls at the airport, you can use the LoFric Travel Certificate.

Download LoFric travel certificate

The content of this post is only for informative purposes and is not intended for product promotion or diagnosis. For further information, Wellspect strongly recommends consulting a healthcare specialist that can answer your questions and knows what is available in your local market.

For reference: Mauro Menarini, Judit Timar, Blue Book. 201 risposte alla mielolesione, Mirano, La Colonna Onlus, 2016 (p 58).

Reference links: 

Topics: Men's Health, Bladder management, Catheterisation