One option for managing incontinence is a condom catheter. This external catheter is a soft sleeve that fits over the penis or attaches directly to the glans. It is held in place with adhesive or a strap. The sleeve is attached to a urinary drainage tube and bag, which collects the urine. The catheter should be secure, leak-free, comfortable, and easy to apply and remove. Not all condom catheters are the same, so you may need to try several types before finding the one that suits you best. They come in several sizes, with and without adhesive, and with other special features. Non-latex condom catheters are available for those with a latex allergy.
How do I apply the condom catheter?
- Clip hair on your penis and any pubic hair that might otherwise get caught as the condom catheter sheath is rolled to the base of the penis.
- Wash your penis and pat dry. The skin must be dry and warm before applying the catheter sheath. If you have just taken a hot shower and your bathroom is steamy, you will need to wait or move to a room where the air is drier.
- Apply a skin prep sealant or protectant. Allow the sealant to dry until it is slick and smooth. There are two purposes for this skin sealant: it will protect your skin from sweat and urine moisture and lift off when the condom catheter sheath is removed, which will reduce irritation of your skin.
- Hold your penis and place the rolled condom catheter sheath over it. Leave enough space at the end of the condom catheter so the head of your penis does not rub against the inside of it. Those with an uncircumcised penis should leave the foreskin in its natural position (down over the head of the penis). Serious swelling of the foreskin, called "phimosis," may result if the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis is not kept over the head of the penis. If you are not able to return the foreskin to its natural position, it is a medical emergency, and you should see a doctor immediately.
- Unroll the adhesive-coated sheath slowly, pressing the condom against your skin. When the condom is completely unrolled, grip your penis all around for 10-15 seconds to be sure that any wrinkles in the sheath are sealed together, getting rid of any air bubbles. If the sheath has many wrinkles, the condom catheter is probably too large.
- Sometimes, the condom catheter does not fully unroll, and a roll of the condom will remain at the base of the penis. This might mean that you are using the wrong size, and you may need a different length.
What if the condom catheter falls off?
If your condom catheter falls off, check to see what position your penis is in when the sheath falls off. Sometimes the penis retracts in certain positions, so you might need a shorter sheath. To stop the catheter from falling off, make sure not to use any creams on the area before application of the adhesive and sheath. The adhesive will not stick properly if there is cream on the area where the adhesive needs to go.
What if there is no urine in the drainage bag?
If there is no urine in the drainage bag, check to ensure the sheath does not fall off and is not too tight. Also, check the catheter tubing to make sure it is not bent or twisted.
How do I care for my condom catheter?
Take care of your catheter by:
- Checking the skin every time you remove the condom catheter sheath and knowing what symptoms to report: redness or swelling of the penis, glans, or scrotum; any open skin on the penis or scrotum; inability to return the foreskin to its natural position.
- Keeping the drainage bag off the floor and below the bladder level.
- Keeping the tubing straight and using a securing device. A twisted or bent tube will stop urine from flowing freely out of your bladder and into the drainage bag.
- Emptying the drainage bag regularly throughout the day. The bag should not be allowed to become full.
- Cleaning the leg and drainage bags every day, using either commercially prepared cleaning solutions specifically for catheter supplies or by combining vinegar and water at a ratio of 1 1/2 cups of white vinegar to 8 cups of water.
This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care providers. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or others on your health care team. If you are a Gillette patient with urgent questions or concerns, please contact Telehealth Nursing at 651-229-3890.