What is a Condom Catheter?

August 30,2023 |
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Catheters are a medical device used to help individuals with urinary incontinence or other underlying medical conditions that impact bladder function. They collect urine and carry it out and away from the body into a bag or directly into the toilet. Although intermittent catheters are one of the most common types of catheters, a condom catheter is an easy-to-use alternative. Condom catheters are external urinary catheters that offer less invasive incontinence management. For more information, we’ll discuss what a condom catheter is, some benefits and disadvantages, and step-by-step instructions on how to use it.

What is a Condom Catheter?

A condom catheter is a type of catheter that’s worn over the penis in the same way as a condom. The difference is that there’s a small tube connected to the bottom that attaches to a collection bag. When urine is released, it travels through the tube and into the bag until the bag needs to be emptied. Condom catheters are also commonly referred to as penile sheath catheters and external urinary catheters.

There are several different types of condom catheters that you can choose from. To ensure a good fit, you’ll need to measure the circumference of your penis. To do this, start at the shaft and measure the area where the girth is the largest. This will help you find a comfortable, well-fitting option. You can also choose between materials—i.e., latex or silicone. Finally, you’ll want to decide whether you use condom catheters with self-adhesive or non-adhesive properties. If you choose the non-adhesive options, you will need additional products (glue or adhesive strips) to ensure that the condom catheter remains in place.

What’s Included in a Condom Catheter Kit?

Although the included materials will vary based on the medical supplier or brand, they tend to have similar contents. Most often, a condom catheter kit will come with about seven or more catheters, either with or without adhesive (depending on your preferences). You’ll also receive a collection bag, a tube, and adjustable straps that can be used to secure the collection bag to your leg. Some condom catheter kits may include underwear that helps secure the catheter, while others may have a sheath holder to keep it in place.

Always review the contents of your condom catheter kit before ordering to ensure that it has everything you need. Otherwise, you can always buy products individually. Typically, if you purchase non-adhesive condom catheters, you’ll need to buy the adhesive separately.

When to Use a Condom Catheter

The most common reason individuals choose to use a condom catheter is when they experience urinary incontinence. This is the involuntary loss of urine, ranging from mild to severe. Losing control of your bladder can result in embarrassing situations, which is why many individuals choose to use some catheterization. While clean intermittent self-catheterization is an option, it requires the insertion of the catheter into the urethra, which some people prefer not to do. Condom catheters are non-invasive and easy to use, which makes them an appealing alternative.

Since condom catheters are easy to apply, they’re also great for individuals with dementia or anyone who has problems with mobility. If, however, you suffer from neurogenic bladder, urinary retention, or urinary tract blockages, an internal catheter is a better option.

Benefits of a Condom Catheter

Due to their ease of use, there are several benefits of using a condom catheter. For once, condom catheters are less likely to cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) as they don’t insert the urethra. This can decrease your risk of infection or more serious complications, especially if you need to wear a catheter for an extended period of time. Condom catheters are also known to be more comfortable, cause less restriction with movements, and are available for individuals to use in the comfort of their own homes. They’re also non-invasive, making them perfect for those who may struggle to utilize intermittent catheterization at home.

Disadvantages of a Condom Catheter

While condom catheters can seem like the perfect option for your situation, there are some disadvantages that you should be aware of. For one, if you don’t measure correctly, there’s a high chance of leakage when using a condom catheter. The fit needs to be precise, snug, and secure. Condom catheters can also increase the risk of skin irritation if urine gets stuck between the silicone (or latex) and the skin. Depending on your activity, condom catheters can fall off more easily and sometimes, if the adhesive is too strong, may be a little painful to remove. Finally, although the risk of UTIs is lower, they do still exist. 

Due to the nature of condom catheters, individuals with female genitalia cannot use them. However, there are options for external catheters for individuals with female anatomy. One option for this type of external catheter works similarly to a pad, with the only difference being that the pad drains into a collection bag. Another option is a tube that uses a slight vacuum to help guide urine into the collection bag. Unfortunately, they’re not ideal when moving around, so other types of catheters or incontinence products are recommended.

How to Put on a Condom Catheter

A condom catheter is put on the same way that a regular condom is. First, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. You’ll also want to clean your penis and the skin surrounding it. Before putting on the condom catheter, make sure the skin is completely dry. Then, you can remove the condom catheter from the packaging and roll it onto your penis. Make sure that you leave a small space (about half an inch) at the tip to help facilitate urine flow. The condom catheter should fit securely but shouldn’t be so tight that it’s uncomfortable or cuts off circulation. After applying the condom catheter to the penis, you can connect the tube to the drainage bag. When changing them, always throw away the old condom catheter as they’re not meant to be reused.

How Long to Wear a Condom Catheter

You can wear a condom catheter for about 24 hours before it’s recommended to change them. However, you will need to empty the urine collection bag whenever it gets full to avoid leaks or issues with the catheter. Whenever you empty the collection bag or change the condom catheter, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly both before and after.

Cleaning the Collection Bag

If the collection bag is reusable, it’s important to thoroughly clean it every time the condom catheter is changed. To do this, empty the bag and add cold water. Shake the contents so that the water extends to all corners of the bag, then pour the contents into the toilet. Repeat this process again. Next, clean the inside of the bag using a specialized cleaner or by mixing one-part vinegar with three-part water. Fill the bag until it's half full and let sit for about 30 minutes. Afterward, pour the mixture out, rinse the collection bag with warm water, empty it, and let it air dry.

When to Call Your Doctor

Condom catheters are a great option for incontinence care, but they can still cause issues. If you notice any swelling of the foreskin or severe signs of skin irritation, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. You should also discontinue use and call your doctor if there is any pain during or after using a condom catheter, either on the penis, flank, lower abdomen, or within the urethra. Fevers, especially accompanied by open sores, also call for immediate medical attention.

If you or a loved one think a condom catheter or any type of catheter system would improve your life, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Millions of people rely on catheterization to manage symptoms, improve their quality of life, and reduce the risk of complications. With a prescription, many insurance plans nationwide will provide coverage for indwelling, intermittent, or external catheters.

To help you navigate the process, Byram Healthcare is here. As one of the leading medical supply companies in the country, we work with Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance providers to help you navigate the intricate process of obtaining insurance-covered urologic products. Byram provides a better patient financial experience because we’re in-network with over 260 million covered lives. This translates to lower co-pays and deductibles. Learn more about our mission or browse our urology products today.