Catheters are supposed to help you go, so when no urine is emptied from the bladder, it could be a little alarming. If you have a catheter blockage, it should be fixed immediately, before it leads to pain or kidney infections. However, most catheter users experience catheter encrustation or blockage over time. In fact, as many as 47% of catheter users develop a blockage. Remain calm and follow the simple steps below to get your urine flowing again.
Catheter Blockage And Obstruction
What to do when you experience a catheter obstruction may vary based on the type of catheter you have.
Indwelling Catheter: If you have a suprapubic or indwelling (Foley) catheter then it resides inside of your body. It is left in the bladder to drain urine into a drainage bag. If you notice that the drainage bag is empty:
- Check your underwear. Snug or tight undergarments can block urine. Loose fitting underwear is best.
- Check to see if the urinary bag or catheter tubing has any kinks.
- Look at your leg straps to make sure it fits correctly and isn’t causing an obstruction.
- Make sure that your urinary bag is positioned below your bladder while sitting or laying down.
- If you do not have the urge to urinate or abdominal pain drink two glasses of water and monitor your catheter for 30 minutes. If no urine passes contact your doctor or visit a medical facility for immediate assistance.
You should also seek medical attention if you have the urge to urinate, abdominal cramping or discomfort, or if you’re unable to detect bladder fullness.
Intermittent Catheter: An intermittent catheter is used several times a day when you need to use the restroom. It’s inserted when you need to empty your bladder, so if no urine leaks out:
- Check to see if the tubbing has any kinks.
- The lubricating gel may have blocked the end of the tube. Give it a minute or two to dissolve.
- If your urine does not begin to flow gently remove the catheter to make sure it was properly inserted. Women can place it in the vagina by mistake, and men need to insert it far enough in the urethra for the bladder to empty. 10cm of the catheter should be visible after insertion for male patients.
- Relax and check your positioning. Place your catheter in at the correct angle. Tension and anxiety can make insertion more difficult.
- Make sure you have the correct catheter size.
- Never force your catheter in. Force could cause pain and complications. If you fail to insert your catheter take a break and try again after a few minutes.
- If you fail to insert your catheter or your bladder won’t drain seek medical attention immediately.
Bypassing: Or Urine leaking around the catheter may indicate that urine is unable to drain through the catheter and will leak around the catheter instead.
Stomach Cramps: Pain and cramping could be a sign of bladder irritation or the result of too much pressure placed on the bladder due to constipation.
Encrustation: The build-up of salt and minerals from urine can block your catheter tube. Bacterial infections can cause the urine to be more alkaline, leading to more crystals.
Blood clots and kidney stones can also cause catheter obstruction.
How to Prevent Catheter Obstructions
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid alcohol which can be dehydrating as well as acidic juices and caffeine.
- Follow proper sanitary protocols. Wash your hands before handling your catheter. Do no open the package until it’s ready to be inserted. Wash your genitals with a warm cloth before and after inserting your catheter.
- Remove indwelling catheters more often if you’re prone to obstructions. Pay attention to how often your catheter becomes blocked and associated causes.
- Consult your doctor about changing your catheter when taking a new antibiotic or other medication.
- Check the pH of your urine to make sure it isn’t too alkaline. Anything between 4.5 to 8 is normal, but anything below 6.7 increases the chances for encrustation. Citrates and sodium can help make urine less alkaline.
- Contact a qualified incontinence specialist from Aeroflow to match you with the right catheter type. They’ll also help you receive a monthly supply of catheters through insurance! If you feel like the quality of your supplies have diminished, Aeroflow ensures you receive top quality catheter and catheter supplies on time every time.
- Try different catheter types. If you use a straight tip catheter, a coude tip can help navigate obstructions due to enlarged prostates. Lubricated, antimicrobial intermittent catheters can also help you.