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What to Know About Condom Catheters

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 27, 2021

A condom catheter is a urinary catheter — a tube that permits the flow of urine — that users can wear on the outside of the penis instead of inside the urethra, a natural tube inside the penis. It collects urine for people who have trouble holding their urine or are not mobile enough to walk to the bathroom. 

A condom catheter is a useful, less invasive alternative to the urethral catheter, which is something that requires a medical professional to install inside the urethra at the tip of the penis. This article offers reasons for wearing a condom catheter — or not wearing one. 

What Are Condom Catheters?

A person with a penis would wear a condom catheter, as its name suggests, like a condom. The catheter has a tube that’s applied to the penis. It is connected to a drainpipe and collection bag strapped to the person’s leg. 

The person would roll the catheter on around the outside of the penis. Some condom catheters come with a gentle adhesive that helps the condom remain attached to the body all day. The wearer can change a condom catheter at home and in private.

Reasons to Use Condom Catheters

Common reasons a doctor may suggest a condom catheter include:

  • Urinary incontinence. If you can’t control when you urinate, then a condom catheter can help you stay clean and dry as you do your daily tasks. 
  • Overactive bladder. If you have uncontrollable urges to urinate but can’t get to the bathroom, a condom catheter can help you avoid accidents.
  • Limited mobility. If you are unable to walk to a bathroom without help, then a condom catheter can help you remain comfortable. 
  • Dementia. If dementia causes you to not notice that you need to urinate, a condom catheter can help without making you stressed about some tube inside your penis. 

A condom catheter is also less likely than a urethral catheter to lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other health complications. ‌And if you or your doctor have concerns about bladder stones or bladder spasms, then you might choose a condom catheter.

Reasons to Not Use Condom Catheters

But condom catheters aren’t always the right solution. They can only help manage urine if you can empty your bladder on your own. If you can’t empty your bladder, then the urine doesn’t make it to the condom, and the catheter does nothing. 

This is when urethral catheters are a better choice. Your doctor may have you use a urethral catheter instead of a condom catheter if you have urine retention or a neuropathic bladder condition. If you cannot release urine without help, a urethral catheter bypasses the muscles that you can’t control and allows your bladder to drain. And if your urinary tract is narrow or blocked, a urethral catheter might be able to get past those blockages and help you urinate.

How to Wear Condom Catheters

Your doctor will probably suggest a condom catheter provider to you. This provider will offer kits that include everything you need to wear the catheter, including:

  • ‌The condoms
  • ‌A collection bag
  • ‌Drainage tubes and connectors
  • ‌Adjustable straps to connect the catheter to your leg
  • ‌A sheath or adhesive to keep the condoms in place

Make sure you get a kit that fits you. Condoms that are too small can hurt your penis, and condoms that are too large can fall off or leak. 

Once you have a condom catheter kit, you can put it on at home. 

  • First, remove the previous condom if you are wearing one. Always roll it off, never pull, so you don’t hurt your skin. 
  • ‌Wash your hands with soap and water, and then wash and rinse your penis. If necessary, wash gently under your foreskin as well. 
  • ‌Allow your penis to completely dry and inspect it for any sores or irritation. If you notice irritation, you may be using a condom that’s too tight.
  • ‌Apply any sealant you are using to your penis, and allow it to dry.
  • ‌Slowly roll the condom onto your penis, leaving some room at the tip. 
  • ‌Allow any adhesive to dry by holding the condom in place for 10 to 20 seconds.
  • ‌Wrap the sheath around the base of the condom loosely enough to let blood flow.
  • ‌Connect the collection bag tube to the condom, and then strap the collection bag to your leg below the knee. Take a few steps and move around to make sure everything is comfortable. 
  • ‌Change your condom catheter at least once a day and drain your collection bag every few hours as it reaches halfway full. 
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Alternatives to the Indwelling Urinary Catheter.”

‌Hospice of Cincinnati: “What you should know about External Condom Catheter.”

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society: “Condom versus indwelling urinary catheters: a randomized trial.”

Journal of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing: “External Collection Devices as an Alternative to the Indwelling Urinary Catheter.”

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