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Catheter problems

A catheter is a small, thin, flexible tube that is inserted inside the urethra to allow urine to be emptied from the bladder.

The catheter tube is attached to a urine drainage bag, where the urine can be collected.

Some people with urinary problems need catheters permanently, but more often people need them temporarily.

There can be problems with catheters, such as:

  • leaking – sometimes leaking occurs and you feel wet even if the catheter is still draining into the bag
  • falling out – occasionally the catheter may fall out
  • blockages – sometimes the catheter gets blocked and doesn’t drain properly.

Looking after yourself

Here is some useful self-care information for catheter care.

Catheter has fallen out

If your catheter has fallen out, it will need to be replaced. Try not to worry as it will not cause any immediate problems. You should follow the advice you have already been given.

Catheter is leaking or not draining

Have a look to make sure that your catheter is not twisted or trapped anywhere or accidentally closed off, causing the urine to stop draining.

If that is not the problem, then it may need to be examined to see why it is leaking or not draining. It may have to be replaced. Use clean towels or pads to keep yourself dry while you wait to see a healthcare professional.

General catheter care

  • Keep the area where the catheter is inserted clean. You should wash it gently using mild soap. Rinse well and dry thoroughly afterwards.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching the area where the catheter is inserted.
  • Avoid the use of talcum powder as this may irritate your skin.
  • Try to make sure that the catheter and the tubing is not under tension, for example, being pulled by clothing or getting caught on chairs or beds or when you are moving around.
  • Make sure the drainage bag is well supported and attached securely so that, as it fills, its weight does not pull on the catheter.
  • Drink plenty of water as it will help to flush bacteria from your bladder and urinary tract, unless you have a medical condition which means this is not possible.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your catheter problems, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2015

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