The main risk of using a urinary catheter is that it can sometimes allow bacteria to enter your body.
This can cause an infection in the urethra, bladder or, less commonly, in the kidneys. These types of infection are known as urinary tract infections (UTIs).
UTIs caused by using a catheter are one of the most common types of infection that affect people staying in hospital. This risk is particularly high if your catheter is left in place continuously (an indwelling catheter).
Symptoms of a UTI associated with using a catheter include:
Contact your GP or community nurse if you think you have a UTI. You may need a course of antibiotics.
Bladder spasms, which feel like stomach cramps, are quite common when you have a catheter in your bladder. The pain is caused by the bladder trying to squeeze out the balloon. You may need medicine to reduce the frequency and intensity of the spasms.
Leakage around the catheter is another problem associated with indwelling catheters. This can happen as a result of bladder spasms or when you poo. Leakage can also be a sign that the catheter is blocked, so it's essential to check that it's draining.
Blood or debris in the catheter tube is also common with an indwelling catheter. This could become a problem if the catheter drainage system becomes blocked.
Get medical advice as soon as possible if you think your catheter may be blocked, or if you're passing large pieces of debris or blood clots.
Other (less common) potential problems include: