This is the second in a 3-part series on urinary incontinence in men suffering with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Dr. Richard Roach, of Advanced Urology in Oxford, FL, discusses the challenges of using urinary catheters to treat men with BPH-related incontinence, and the drawbacks of long-term catheterization.
In my last BHEALTH blog post, we touched on the peculiar, yet common link between BPH and incontinence. Among other topics, we reviewed the progression of BPH disease state, to the point that symptoms begin to manifest themselves through urge and stress incontinence. Likewise, we also discussed the role that urinary catheters play in men who are not good candidates for BPH therapies.
So let’s now take a closer look at this population of men who must rely on urinary catheters to manage BPH-related incontinence symptoms, and examine the shortcomings of long-term catheter use:
Losing the ability to void naturally: The first (and most obvious) drawback of chronic catheter use is losing the ability to urinate at-will. Of course, managing supplies and components can be a hassle, but there are also health concerns associated with preventing your bladder to fill and empty on its own. Chronic catheterization, particularly with an indwelling catheter, can increase the risk for deterioration in overall bladder health, which can lead to a permanent inability to store and drain urine naturally, or even cancer.
Heightened infection risk: Perhaps the most immediate health concern with chronic catheter use is the heightened risk of infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 500,000 patients each year in the U.S. develop urinary tract infections (UTIs) while in the hospital, and indwelling urinary catheters (commonly known as Foley catheters, which reside inside the bladder for either a short or long period of time) are the leading cause. And the CDC numbers only count UTIs acquired while in the hospital; many others develop infections from long-term indwelling catheter use at home.
Compromises to quality of life: The last, but no less important, drawback of chronic catheter use is the impact on quality of life. Many men are simply unable to perform day-to-day activities inside and outside the home. The embarrassment or inconvenience of a drainage bag is a commonly lamented life-limiter, and some types of catheterization restrict a man’s ability to be sexually active, which can strain relationships.
These challenges represent the key reasons that healthcare professionals around the world are seeking alternatives to long-term catheter use. And though it’s not always feasible to have a catheter removed, it’s important to point out that there are alternatives to long-term catheterization.
The final post in this series will highlight the story of one such patient who stopped using a catheter after several challenge-fraught years, and gained back his ability to urinate when he wanted to – without components or supplies, without infections and (most importantly for him) without any significant compromises to his everyday life.
Read part 3 of this series here.