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BACKGROUND: An indwelling urinary catheter can solve the problem of incontinence and may be life-saving in individuals with retention, but it can cause problems such as infection and may have a negative impact on body image, sex, and sexuality. AIM: To explore the individual's perceptions of how a long-term urinary catheter can affect body image, sex, and sexuality; and to help GPs to discuss the subject in consultations. DESIGN AND SETTING: Qualitative study of a diverse sample of individuals living with a long-term urinary catheter. Interviews took place all over the UK, usually in the individuals' homes. METHOD: Narrative interviews were audiorecorded, transcribed, and analysed thematically, using the constant comparative method. RESULTS: Some individuals said that sex was not an important part of their lives because of old age, illness, or the catheter. Others talked about how their catheter and their disability affected their sexual self-esteem, feelings of masculinity or femininity, and how the catheter caused pain, discomfort, or unexpected symptoms during sex. Many noted the lack of information on the subject and also said that health professionals were reluctant to talk about sex. For a minority a catheter was not a major problem in relation to sex. CONCLUSION: Some individuals using a urinary catheter would benefit from information on how to have a sexual relationship with a catheter in place and a chance to discuss the subject with their doctors. GPs need to be aware that sex may matter to a person with a catheter and how illness, disability, and a catheter may affect sexuality.

Original publication

DOI

10.3399/bjgp14X680149

Type

Journal article

Journal

Br J Gen Pract

Publication Date

06/2014

Volume

64

Pages

e364 - e371

Keywords

body image, catheters, general practice, primary health care, sex, sexuality, Adaptation, Physiological, Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Body Image, Catheters, Indwelling, Female, General Practice, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Male, Middle Aged, Qualitative Research, Quality of Life, Risk Assessment, Sampling Studies, Self Concept, Sex Factors, Sexual Behavior, Sexuality, United Kingdom, Urinary Catheterization, Urinary Catheters, Young Adult