What to Know About Catheters & Erectile Dysfunction

Coloplast catheter on shelf

Key Takeaways:

  • Catheters do not directly cause erectile dysfunction, but the type of catheter you use can affect comfort level and ease of sexual functioning.
  • Erectile dysfunction can stem from physical, psychological, and lifestyle factors.
  • Lifestyle adjustments, including maintaining physical activity and a balanced diet, quitting smoking, and seeking care from providers, are pivotal in prioritizing sexual health.

Erectile dysfunction is a sensitive topic for many men, and the topic often comes with many misconceptions and uncertainties. A common concern revolves around the potential relationship between catheter use and erectile dysfunction. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the intersection of catheter use and erectile function, exploring various causes of erectile dysfunction beyond catheterization.

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Can Catheters Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Other Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

How to Prevent Erectile Dysfunction

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Can Catheters Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

There is currently no research that shows that catheter use directly causes erectile dysfunction (ED). However, the type of catheter you use might make a difference when it comes to comfort level, place of application, and ease of sexual functioning with catheter use, especially indwelling catheters. 

Types of Catheters

  • An intermittent catheter is a single-use catheter that is inserted through the urethra to empty your bladder. It is replaced every time you empty your bladder.
  • An indwelling catheter (also known as a Foley catheter) is inserted in the same way as an intermittent catheter but is meant to be left in place for a more extended period. Urine is released out of a valve or into a collection bag attached to the leg.
  • A suprapubic catheter is surgically inserted through your abdomen with a direct connection to the bladder. This type of catheter can also be used with a valve or leg bag.
  • A condom catheter is a urine collection device that fits over the penis like a condom and has a tube that collects urine into a collection bag strapped to the leg.

You may need to use a catheter for several reasons, including:

  • Post-operative procedures, such as prostate surgeries.
  • Urinary obstruction or blockage, such as prostate enlargement, urinary stricture, or scarring around the bladder, prostate, or urethra, which can make it difficult to empty the bladder.
  • Neurological conditions that disrupt the neural communication and reflexes of the bladder and pelvic floor muscles, such as spinal cord injury (SC), multiple sclerosis (MS), and spina bifida (for example, urinary retention). 
Man talking to a male doctorMan talking to a male doctor

One research study reported that sexual satisfaction in men with SCI was directly associated with general quality of life. It has also been reported that sexual activity declines post-SCI and that in itself can contribute to and perpetuate ongoing sexual dysfunction.

Other Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Multiple physical, psychological, sociocultural, intrapersonal, and relational factors can contribute to ED, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Diabetes
  • Medications
  • Hormonal factors.
  • Chronic illnesses.
  • Lower urinary tract symptoms.
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Excessive alcohol use.
  • Relationship conflict.
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety 

How to Prevent Erectile Dysfunction

Preventing ED consists of some lifestyle changes, including:

  • Staying physically active. This could include a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and pelvic floor muscle training.
  • Eating a balanced diet. Your diet should include lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy proteins, and water.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Getting adequate sleep. It’s recommended that men get around 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night.
  • Consuming alcohol moderately. 
  • Avoiding illicit drug use.
Man doing pelvic floor exercisesMan doing pelvic floor exercises
  • Being mindful of certain medications. Some medications, like blood pressure medicines and antidepressants, come with sexual side effects that could cause ED.
  • Embracing pleasure-based sex. Engaging in pleasure-based sex rather than performance-based sex can help adjust your attitude and mindset, positively impacting arousal. 
  • Seeing a healthcare provider. Speak with your provider or a specialist, such as a urologist or pelvic floor therapist, if you experience symptoms of ED or incontinence. 

While catheter use alone does not typically cause ED, understanding its implications alongside other factors is essential if you’re also managing urinary issues. By exploring diverse causes of ED, adopting preventive measures, and speaking with your healthcare provider, you can confidently navigate catheterization and prioritize holistic well-being and sexual problems. 

Get Male Catheters Through Insurance

If you’ve been prescribed a catheter by your healthcare provider, you may be able to receive it at a low cost through your insurance plan with Aeroflow Urology. Complete our Eligibility Form today to find out if you qualify. 

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Dr. Susie Gronski, PT, DPT

As a Medical Advisor for Aeroflow Urology from 2022 to June 2024, and with over a decade of expertise in pelvic and sexual health, Dr. Susie Gronski is a Licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner, AASECT Certified Sexuality Counselor and Educator, and founder of a multidisciplinary pelvic health clinic in Asheville, NC.

About the Author

Marlee Septak is the Senior Content Specialist at Aeroflow Urology and was a past Content Writer for Aeroflow Diabetes. She brings a deep understanding of incontinence and health conditions associated with it to her writing. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago and holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. Marlee has contributed to various magazines and blogs, including Borgen Magazine, Echo Magazine, Chicago Ideas Week, Assuaged, and Peaceful Dumpling. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants, and just sitting down with a good book.


References:

Burns AS, Rivas DA, Ditunno JF. The management of neurogenic bladder and sexual dysfunction after spinal cord injury. Spine. 2001;26(24S):S129-S136.

Castro J, Gomes C, Bessa J, Bruschini H, Abdo C, Abreu L, Filho JA, Souza D, Scazufca M, Miranda E, Srougi V, Battistella L, Barros T, Srougi M. Impact of spinal cord injury in male sexual function. J Urol. 2021;187(4S):e467.

Hess MJ, Hough S. Impact of spinal cord injury on sexuality: broad-based clinical practice intervention and practical application. The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine. 2012;35(4):211-218.

Wilde, MH. Life with an indwelling urinary catheter: the dialectic of stigma and acceptance. Qualitative Health Research. 2003;13(9):1189-1204.

Disclaimer

Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.

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