Male external catheters, also known as condom catheters, are a treatment option for men with urinary incontinence. Users apply the external catheter on the outside of the penis and connect it to a leg bag or beside drainage bag to collect urine. External catheters may be a good option for men with uncontrollable urinary incontinence and leakage. Below, we explain the fundamentals of condom catheters so you can make an informed decision on managing urinary incontinence.
Who Can Use External Catheters?
External catheters are designed for men with urinary incontinence. They are used for men who can pass urine freely but cannot always control when the urine is released. External catheters are not appropriate for individuals with urinary retention. Conditions that may indicate an individual is a good candidate for an external catheter include the following:
- Urinary incontinence: this condition occurs when an individual is unable to control the stop or start of urine.
- Stress urinary continence: Accidental urine leakage when laughing, sneezing, or other daily activities.
- Overactive bladder (OAB): an overactive bladder refers to individuals who have uncontrollable urges to urinate and can’t get to the bathroom in time.
- Limited mobility: External catheters provide a convenient option for men who cannot maneuver to the bathroom on their own.
- Nighttime Urinary Frequency: External catheters are an option for men who would prefer not to get up multiple times during the night to go to the bathroom or have episodes of bedwetting.
- Dementia: Men suffering from dementia may not always realize when they need to urinate. Caregivers can use external catheters to help their loved one stay clean and dry.
- Incontinence-associated Dermatitis (diaper rash): If the skin is constantly wet from urine, it can become damaged. External catheters can be effective in keeping urine off the skin.
How to Use an External Catheter
Male external catheters require daily care to keep them safe, clean, and working effectively. The external catheter should be disposed of and replaced every 24 hours. Many insurance plans will cover 35 external catheters per month. The penis should be gently cleaned and assessed for any red or bruised areas or open wounds – this can indicate that the condom catheter is too small and a larger size is needed. Raw areas of skin or pain during catheter removal can indicate that the adhesive is pulling the skin during external catheter changes. Gentle technique, warming the external catheter with a warm washcloth and use of an adhesive remover can help. Call ABC Medical to discuss available adhesive remover product options.
Leg bags and bedside drainage bags are reusable and should be emptied when they are approximately half full. Most insurance will provide 2 legs bags, 2 bedside drainage bags and 2 sets of connection tubing per month. Collection bags and tubing should be cleaned daily to reduce odor and built-up of bacteria.
To clean your collection bag and tubing, follow these steps:
- Empty the bag of its contents.
- Add water to the bag, close it, and shake for about 10 seconds.
- Dump the water into the toilet.
- Mix 1-part bleach and 10-parts water and flush the tubing and fill the bag until half full.
- Let it sit for 20 minutes, then empty the bag again.
- Rinse the collection bag with warm water and leave it out to air dry.
How to Avoid Complications
Many men find external catheters convenient and easy to use. To avoid complications, always choose external catheters that are the correct size for you. Doctors, nurses, and catheter supply companies can help determine your size.
Practice good hygiene. Always wash your hands and penis when putting the external catheter on or emptying the collection bag. Use mild soaps on the delicate skin of the penis and dry well prior to external catheter application.
If you experience discomfort when removing the external catheter, consider use of an adhesive remover. Wrapping a warm washcloth around your penis prior to removal can also help loosen the adhesive.
If you are uncircumcised, it is very important to leave the foreskin in the natural position. The tissues of the penis may be damaged if the foreskin is pulled back when the external catheter applied.
Change the product daily so the penis can be inspected for any damage from an improperly fitting external catheter. If you cannot feel your penis due to nerve damage, it is especially important to visually inspect the penis regularly to ensure a proper fit.
Benefits of Male External Catheters for Urinary Incontinence Management
External catheters may be an excellent, non-invasive option to stay clean and dry for men with urinary incontinence. External catheters can reduce the negative impact of urinary incontinence by controlling odors, reducing skin breakdown, preventing wet clothing and sheets, and avoiding the need to wear diapers. They are less likely than internal catheters to cause a urinary tract infection. Speak with your healthcare provider to see if external catheters are an option for you or your loved one. Contact ABC Medical with any questions or concerns about catheter products or to explore product options.
ABC Medical is a supplier of durable medical equipment and does not provide medical advice or treatment. This article is for informational purposes only. You should seek medical treatment from a licensed medical provider.