External catheters, including condom catheters, are used to treat conditions like urinary incontinence. Condom catheters may cause fewer urinary tract infections than other catheters.
A condom catheter is a urine (pee) collection device that fits like a condom over your penis, but also has a tube that goes to a collection bag strapped to your leg. Other names for this product include external urinary catheters and penile sheath catheters.
People who have urinary incontinence may choose to use a condom catheter. Urinary incontinence refers to a loss of bladder control, which results in urine leaking out when you don’t want it to. Other external incontinence products include absorbent pads and disposable absorbent underwear. There are also catheters that are inserted into the urethra (indwelling catheters).
You may need to use a catheter for other reasons. You may be unable to move easily or you may have had a recent medical procedure that limits your movement.
You need to first choose your product. Some condom catheters use latex, while others use are made of silicone. You need to consider this factor if you have a latex allergy.
Condom catheters are also available in different sizes. You’ll need to measure the circumference of your penis at the base of the shaft. This is the place that the girth is largest. You’ll use this figure to find your size.
You can also choose the way that the condom catheter is applied. Some products come with adhesive attached (self-adhesive). Other products are non-adhesive. You need to use glue that is meant for skin, tapes or adhesive strips to attach these condom catheters.
You put a condom catheter on the same way you put on a condom: Roll it onto your penis, leaving a small space at the tip. This space should be about half an inch long. This will improve urine flow.
Make sure that the condom fit is comfortable and secure, but not too tight. When you’ve attached the condom catheter to your clean skin, you then to connect the device to the urine drainage/collection bag.
Some brands of external catheters are meant to be used with special underwear that helps to keep the catheter in place.
Always wash your hands with soap and water when putting the catheter on. Clean your penis and the area around it, but make sure it’s dry when you attach the adhesive or use the skin glue. Wash your hands with soap and water after you've applied the catheter.
There are external catheters for people with female anatomy, even though the anatomy isn’t as easily covered as a penis.
One type has an external catheter system that covers the vulva. This type of urine collection device comes with adjustable underwear and uses a soft and absorbent pad that drains into a urine collection bag.
Another type of female external urinary catheter has a curved tube like a thin banana. It’s covered with absorbent wicking material and runs from your pubic bone to the buttocks. The catheter uses a slight vacuum and attaches to a collection container.
These catheters aren’t useful for walking around — they’re designed to be used only when you’re sitting or lying down.
You will need to empty the urine collection bag when it’s full. You should change your condom catheter every day.
Always wash your hands with soap and water when putting your catheter on or taking it off. Don’t reuse the catheters. If you reuse the drainage bag, wash it thoroughly.
Risks or complications of external catheters include:
Your healthcare provider may not recommend a condom catheter if have a blockage in your urinary system or if you're unable to put the device on and take it off.
If you’re having trouble with urinary incontinence, talk with your healthcare provider. They’ll work with you to find the best solution for you.
Call your provider if you’re using an external catheter and you any of these symptoms:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
There are several reasons why you might consider using a condom catheter or female external urinary catheter. You may find that you’re not able to control your bladder or you might need some help after a procedure. Make sure that you understand how to put the external catheter on and how to take it off, as well as how to care for it. Talk with your provider about complications you should watch for.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/15/2022.
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