The Difference Between Red Rubber vs. Foley Catheters

September 30,2021 |
Woman talking to her urologist.

In a healthy urinary tract system, your kidneys filter out blood and pass it down through the ureters to be stored in the bladder. When your bladder is full, certain nerves are stimulated and your brain receives the message that you need to find a bathroom. This is a fairly straightforward process, but it doesn’t always work perfectly. To help accommodate for any problems with your urinary system, urinary catheters are used. Urinary catheters are used for the medical assistance of emptying urine from your bladder. They may be needed in different occasions, but the goal of emptying your bladder is the same. Urinary catheters can improve the quality of life for those that need them, but not all catheters are the same. There are several different types of urinary catheters on the market, each of which are used for different individuals based on unique circumstances. Here, we’ll go over the difference between red rubber catheters and Foley catheters along with the pros and cons of each.

What are Red Rubber Catheters?

Red rubber catheters are a type of intermittent catheter that’s made out of a soft, red rubber material, which is where they get their name. They’re also referred to as a Robinson catheter in the medical community and are only used for brief periods of time. Due to the material, red rubber catheters are more flexible than other types of PVC catheters, but they do contain latex. If you have an allergy to latex, red rubber catheters should be avoided.

Intermittent catheters like red rubber catheters are typically used only when an individual needs to drain their bladder. They are not left in throughout the day and there is no collection bag for urine to drain into. Once the bladder is emptied with a red rubber catheter, it is immediately removed. Red rubber catheters may be used once during the day or several times throughout the day, especially in individuals who need additional assistance when fully emptying their bladders.

Benefits of Red Rubber Catheters

Due to the softness of the material, red rubber catheters tend to provide a more comfortable experience for those performing intermittent self-catheterization. They’re also considered to be thermo-sensitive, meaning that the catheter easily matches the temperature of its surrounding environment, which increases comfort levels during application.

Red rubber catheters can be used by both men and women alike and come in a variety of different sizes. This allows for individual customization, which your doctor will help you with. Red rubber catheters are great for those who will need to perform self-catheterization often, especially for those with sensitive skin.

Weaknesses of Red Rubber Catheters

Since they’re made of a soft latex material, red rubber catheters are not recommended for individuals with latex allergies. They are also more flexible, so they may require more precision when performing intermittent self-catheterization. Red rubber catheters are considered intermittent catheters, so if you need to wear something for longer periods of time, they are not recommended. Red rubber catheters need to be thrown away after each use.

If you need to use a red rubber catheter, your doctor will walk you through the appropriate steps. Do not attempt to insert or remove a red rubber catheter on your own if you’ve never done so before or if you’re unsure about what to do. There are certain steps that need to be taken for clean self-catheterization, but once you perform the process a few times it becomes second nature. Contrary to what you may think, self-catheterization should not result in severe pain. If you experience severe pain, stop the process and contact your doctor.

How to Care for Your Red Rubber Catheter

Red rubber catheters are intermittent catheters and therefore, they’re meant to be used once and then thrown away. Unless otherwise noted, never try to reuse your red rubber catheter as this can significantly increase your risk for infection and subsequently, serious complications. How you care for your red rubber catheter depends on the type of catheter it is, so always discuss usage with your doctor. The number of times that you’ll need to use your red rubber catheter throughout the day will vary based on your individual circumstances. If you’re using intermittent self-catheterization to treat common urologic conditions like urinary incontinence or urinary retention, you may need to perform self-catheterization more often.

What are Foley Catheters?

Foley catheters, which are also referred to as indwelling catheters, are a type of catheter that’s meant to be left in place for certain periods of time. Foley catheters use a thin, sterile tube in a similar fashion to intermittent catheters, except that they’re held in place with a balloon filled with sterile water for an extended period of time. The thin tube is led out of the bladder, through the urethra, and into a drainage bag where the urine is collected. When the drainage bag is full, it needs to be emptied, but the catheter remains in place.

Foley catheters are used for several reasons. They can be used to treat urinary retention, urinary obstructions, nerve disorders, or be used as part of post-op care following a surgery. Foley catheters may also be used to collect a sterile urine specimen or monitor urine output for diagnostic purposes. If you think that you may benefit from a Foley catheter, talk to your doctor about your options today.

Benefits of Foley Catheters

Foley catheters are great for several reasons. They can help improve diagnostic testing and give your body the energy it needs to focus on healing after a traumatic injury or surgery. Foley catheters are also a good option for those who are unable to perform self-catheterization.

Weaknesses of Foley Catheters

Since Foley catheters are left in for longer periods of time, they’re more susceptible to problems like leaks, blockages, or improperly sized balloons. Long-term Foley catheter use has also been associated with kidney damage and bladder cancer, which is why using intermittent catheterization when possible is preferred.

Maintenance for Foley Catheters

Foley catheters require more maintenance than intermittent catheters. You’ll need to take the proper steps to regularly clean your catheter, change your drainage bags when needed, wash and dry drainage bags for reuse, and keep an eye out for any signs of problems. You can shower with your Foley catheter in place, but you should not submerge it in water (i.e., in a bath) as doing so increases your risk for infections. Your doctor will discuss specifics for showering with a Foley catheter.

When you clean your catheter, make sure that you first wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Any time you touch your catheter, you must have clean hands. Otherwise, you greatly increase your risk for infection and other serious complications. During this process, clean your urethra and the catheter tubing using gentle, non-tugging motions to avoid putting tension on your catheter system. If your catheter comes out, call your doctor. If you notice any signs of obstructions or leaks, or don’t see any output in the drainage bag, call your doctor.

Choosing the Right Catheter for You

Catheters are used for very specific purposes. If your doctor recommends using a catheter to treat urologic conditions or at least minimize severe symptoms, it’s best to discuss your options with them. Most adults who will need to use catheters will use some sort of intermittent catheter, like a red rubber catheter. If you have sensitive skin and will need to be performing self-catheterization, red rubber catheters are a great option. They’re easy to use, comfortable, and perfect for one-time use. However, everyone’s preferences are different, so don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about trying different options to see what works best for you.

Foley catheters are often reserved for those with more serious conditions who need ongoing assistance with bladder control. They’re also common following surgery or trauma, in the case of certain nerve disorders, and for those who suffer from severe nocturia. Foley catheters will still need to be changed every three months and your doctor may not recommend using them for years on end. In many situations, you won’t be choosing between red rubber catheters or a Foley catheter; your doctor will. If you have any questions regarding this process, discuss them with your doctor.

Regardless of why you need to use a catheter, it’s important that you have the proper supplies to care for your catheter and perform intermittent self-catheterization as needed. Byram Healthcare has a range of catheters to help you manage your conditions and live a happier, healthier life.