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Condom Catheter Types: The Complete Guide

Product Guide: How to Choose an External (Condom) Catheter - Express Medical Supply

An external male catheter is typically used to treat urinary incontinence. This type of catheter use is considered to be less invasive and carries less risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs), compared to indwelling urinary catheters.

This product guide will cover:

  • What Is an External Catheter?
  • Why Do I Need a Urinary Catheter?
  • What Are the Different Types of External Male Catheters?
  • External Condom Catheter Buying Guide
  • How to Choose the Right Size.
  • How to Apply an External (Condom) Catheter.
  • How to Prevent Skin Damage from External Catheter.
  • How to Clean and Empty Your Leg/Drainage Bag.
  • Living with an External Catheter.

What Is an External Catheter?

An external urinary catheter (also referred to as condom or Texas catheter) is a product widely used by men. A condom catheter helps manage incontinence without entering the urethraas opposed to an indwelling catheter.

External catheters are sheaths applied over the penis, similarly to condoms, and can be worn discreetly under clothing. When rolled onto the penis, the sheath forms a seal that prevents leakage. With a condom catheter, the tip of the sheath is connected to a tube that leads the urine into a leg or drainage bag.


What Are the Different Condom Catheter Types?

Not all external catheters are the same. It is advised to try a few different types in order to find the catheter that best meets your individual needs.

Most major catheter manufacturers (such as Coloplast and Hollister) offer condom catheters in various materials, shapes, and sizes. External catheters are typically made out of latex or silicone:

Latex Condom Catheters

Latex condom catheters

Latex condom catheters are affordable and easy to use, though in some cases, may cause an allergic reaction.

Silicone Condom Catheters

Silicone catheters

Silicone catheters are more costly option, but are breathable, have a clear sheath, and offer a tight seal.

External catheters can also be divided into self-adhesive and non-adhesive devices:

Self-adhesive Condom Catheters

Self-adhesive condom catheters

Self-adhesive condom catheters can be affixed by gently pressing the adhesive backing on the skin.

Non-adhesive Condom Catheters

Non-adhesive catheters

Non-adhesive catheters require adhesive strips, foam strips, or medical adhesive skin glue to attach. If you need to change the catheter several times a day – or if you have damaged or irritated skin – a non-adhesive condom catheter is recommended.

External Condom Catheter Buying Guide

This is a list of supplies you will need for successfully using external condom catheters.

Every person is different, any time you try a new product it is a good idea to try it at home before venturing out in public with the new equipment. It is also a good idea to do a small skin test before using any new skin preps on sensitive skin. This is meant to be a basic list to get you started.

There are other items, like antiseptic wipes, adhesive removers, and odor eliminators that you may decide you need as well. It can be daunting to try new things especially when that new thing is health related.

Best Condom Catheter Products

I hope this list helps answer some questions about male external condom catheters and that it helps to alleviate some of the nervousness you feel toward your new normal.

Skin Prep

The purpose of skin prep wipes and sprays are to form a protective barrier between your skin and the external catheter. The skin prep is applied directly to the skin, which helps when your skin comes in contact with urine and/or adhesive.

External Catheters

One of the most important aspects to an external catheter is the fit. It needs to fit snug but not too tight. Lisa Lucas wrote an informative article about external catheters and how to choose the perfect one for you. I would highly recommend reading her article. There are many types of external catheters from self-adhesive to ones that use adhesive strips as well as different materials like silicone or latex.

Catheter Bag & Leg Bag

The leg bag attaches to the external catheter by tubing. The leg bag is worn under pants, skirts, shorts and is available in many shapes and sizes. You can choose between reusable and disposable urinary drainage bags. When your leg bag is 3/4 to 1/2 full, you will want to drain the contents of your leg bag. When emptying your leg bag, be careful to not let the tubing, leg bag, or any part of your equipment touch the bathroom floor or toilet.

Tubing and Connectors

The tubing and connectors are what connects the external catheter to the leg bag or the night drainage bag/bottle. They are available in various lengths. Tubing for external catheters can be purchased in silicone, rubber, latex, and latex-free.

Leg Bag Straps

Most leg bags come with straps, however some people prefer the cloth or reusable leg bag straps that can be purchased separately. Each product is available in various sizes so make sure to take measurements before you make your final purchase.

Urine Bags for Overnight

Leg bags are not meant to be worn while sleeping, they would not drain properly. When you are sleeping, overnight drain bags or night drainage bottles are the better solution. The bag or bottle would be next to the bed or hung from the bed itself so urine can drain easily while you are sleeping.

Appliance Cleanser

Appliance cleansers are used to clean and deodorize your urinary leg bags as well as your night drainage bottles. They are specially formulated to break down uric crystals and help avoid blockages. Leg bags should be cleaned nightly after you switch to the night drainage bag/bottle. Then in the morning you use the appliance cleansers to clean your night device.

How to Choose the Right Size Catheter

Selecting the appropriate catheter size is essential, so most manufacturers provide a measuring guide.

In most cases, the penis should be measured at the shaft (where the diameter is the largest) to help you determine the right external catheter size.

  1. Measure the circumference of the penis in millimeters.
  2. Divide the result by 3.14 (Pi).

For example, if penis circumference is 110 millimeters (4.3 inches), divide this number by 3.14: 110/3.14 = 35mm

If you fall between two sizes, opt for the smaller one to avoid leakage. Keep in mind, however, that if the external catheter is too tight, it may fall off.

External catheters can be purchased by each. It is best to get the closest to the measured size, as well as the size above and below try on and find the best fit.

How To Apply an External Catheter

To experience the full benefits of the product, it is important that your external condom catheter is the right size and fits well.

Prepare the skin before application. Trim any hair present on the penis (or the base) to avoid them sticking to the adhesive. Skin must be clean and dry so be sure not to use any moisturizers or oils. A skin prep wipe or spray may be used for extra protection.

Unroll the condom catheter slowly while pressing against the skin. If you are uncircumcised, ensure the foreskin is in its natural position before applying the device. Once you have the device unrolled, squeeze it around the penis for a few seconds.

When applying a condom catheter,ensure that the end of the device isn’t touching the tip of the penis. Leaving a small gap at the end of the device (about ½ inch) will allow better flow of urine.

To connect the condom catheter to the urine collection bag, insert the drainage tube into the tip of the catheter.

Consult with your caregiver or medical professional if you are having trouble applying your external catheter.

How to Prevent Skin Damage from External Catheters

External catheters need to be changed/cleaned daily. Depending on your skin sensitivity – as well as the type of condom catheter– wear time can vary. Generally, wear time is between 12 and 72 hours.

After each catheter change, clean the skin and inspect for signs of skin irritation. To prevent skin damage and irritation, do not shave pubic hair and allow the skin to breath between changes.

Remove the condom catheter by detaching the device from the drainage tube. You may use warm water or an adhesive remover to ease removal.

How to Clean and Empty Your Leg/Drainage Bag

Urine that drains through the external condom catheter is usually collected in either a leg or a drainage bag. Drainage bags are larger and preferred for nighttime use.

Before and after changing or cleaning the urine collection bag, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Different types of urine collection devices may open in different ways. Typically, the bag will have a clamp or an opening that can be twisted or removed. The contents of the bag can be emptied directly into the toilet.

As leg bags are smaller than drainage bags, they need to be emptied more often. For most people, this should happen when the leg bag is half-full.

To clean your catheter bag, start by rinsing it with cold water. Drain the water into the toilet and fill the bag with one part vinegar and three parts water. Soak for at least 20 minutes, rinse, and let air dry.

Living with an External Catheter

Having to live with a long-term catheter may seem challenging and overwhelming. With the right catheter equipment and proper care, however, you will be able to quickly get back on track.

When choosing your external condom catheter, consider not only your anatomy, but also your lifestyle. Experiment with different catheter sizes in order to find the best fit. Focus on the material, drainage, and adhesion of your device and you’ll be able to assemble the best system for your personal needs and live a more active life.

Read our blog section for more information about catheter care, supplies, and product reviews!

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