What To Know About Condom Catheters For Incontinence

Many people need urinary catheters at some point in their lives. 

Most require using a urinary catheter for a short time while undergoing some treatment, surgery, or recovering from a severe ailment.

However, for some individuals, urinary incontinence becomes a significant problem.

Such individuals cannot use regular or indwelling or Foley catheter, as it is not fit for prolonged use. Instead, individuals with chronic urinary incontinence may use a condom catheter. 

A condom catheter is easy to use, safer, and rarely causes side effects. 

It is estimated that about 3% of men live with severe urinary incontinence. They suffer from major leakage, and thus they consistently need to use a catheter. 

One can guess that these numbers are average for men of all ages. It also means that severe urinary incontinence is much more common in older men, with a prevalence of greater than 10% in those older than 60.

What is a condom catheter?

A condom catheter is a relatively simple device. However, it is quite different from a regular urinary catheter or Foley catheter, which has quite a different use case scenario. 

Therefore, to understand what a condom catheter is, it is vital to understand what a regular urinary catheter is and how a condom catheter differs.

A Foley catheter, indwelling catheter, or regular urinary catheter is inserted into the urethra. It is an invasive medical device. 

This means that regular urinary catheter is often only inserted by trained medical staff. A regular urinary catheter is commonly used in bedridden patients, those who have undergone surgical interventions, or people recovering from prolonged illness. 

As one can understand, the Foley catheter has one significant drawback: it is inserted in the urethra. Thus, it is associated with a higher risk of various complications like urinary tract infections. Therefore, such a catheter is perfect for short-term use but unsuitable for prolonged use.

A condom catheter, on the other hand, is better suited for a relatively healthier individual living with specific chronic issues like severe urinary incontinence. 

These are individuals who suffer from frequent leaks. Hence, wearing a condom catheter can protect them from unwanted leaks and embarrassment. 

As one can guess from the name, this catheter is worn on a male penis quite like a condom. However, on the front-facing end, it has a tubing attached for passing urine to the urinary bag. 

This kind of catheter is easy to manipulate, non-invasive, and less likely to cause infections or other complications.

Moreover, quite like wearing condoms, you can readily and regularly change the catheter. Therefore, it also allows for maintaining better hygiene.

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What are condom catheters used for?

There are multiple use case scenarios for condom catheters:

  • Chronic urinary incontinence: It is used by men living with chronic urinary incontinence who frequently experience involuntary urinary leakage. Such issues may occur due to many reasons, like chronic ailment, severe prostate issues, and illness when recovering from surgery.
  • Post-surgical recovery: Most individuals who undergo surgery have a Foley catheter inserted. However, once they have been relieved from the inpatient department or hospital, they can continue using condom catheters instead. A condom catheter is a better alternative due to its ease of use. It also causes less discomfort.
  • Bedridden individuals: Many people are living with limited mobility for various reasons. However, a regular urinary catheter is not the best option for such individuals. Instead, a condom catheter is a good option for such patients, as it can be easily used and changed. In addition, a condom catheter is better suited for prolonged use.
  • Traveling: Some men need to urinate frequently due for various reasons. For example, men with severe prostate problems may have frequent urination urges. In addition, many men have overactive bladders. For such men traveling is quite challenging, and finding a restroom or other facilities might not be possible. However, such men can use a condom catheter and urinary bag to manage their issues temporarily.
  • Physically active men with urinary incontinence: Some men may have severe urinary incontinence, though they might be relatively healthy and have no other physical ailment. Such men would like to stay physically active, participate in sports, etc. However, for such physically active men, using a Foley catheter is not an option due to the high discomfort caused by such a catheter. They can instead use a condom catheter. 

How long can you wear a condom catheter?

Condom catheters are designed to be worn 24 hours and seven days a week. However, they must be changed frequently to prevent infections, local inflammation, and other issues. 

Though you can use them regularly for months or even years, you must change the condom catheter every 24 to 48 hours.

If you do not develop any local irritation or inflammation, then you should change the condom catheter every 48 hours. However, some individuals may need to change them daily.

However, if you develop a local infection, you may need to discontinue their use. In such cases, you may need to explore other options, like using a regular or Foley catheter or even incontinence pads.

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Who is a good candidate for a condom catheter?

  • Individuals living with urinary incontinence. Especially individuals who are relatively mobile. Using condom catheters provides them with higher control over their condition since condom catheters can be readily changed at home, and their use does not require strict medical supervision.
  • Bedridden individuals. Especially those living with chronic health issues. Such individuals are unable to go to the toilet. Hence, a condom catheter may be an excellent choice for them.
  • Prostate surgery. Many men continue to experience urinary incontinence post-surgery, and for such individuals, a condom catheter may be the right choice.
  • Cognitive impairment. Men with cognitive impairment, such as dementia, may have difficulty managing traditional catheters. Condom catheters can be easier to apply and can reduce the risk of infection or injury.
  • Personal preference. Finally, it is also about personal preference and convenience. If a condom catheter is well-tolerated, it is much more comfortable. If you’re unsure whether condom catheters are right for you, consult your healthcare provider.

Benefits and disadvantages

When we discuss the benefits and disadvantages of condom catheters, these are relative to indwelling or Foley catheters. 

Some of the benefits of using a condom catheter are:

  • Non-invasive: Unlike the Foley catheter, which is inserted in the urethra, the condom catheter is not invasive. It means fewer chances of certain side effects. In addition, it generally causes lesser discomfort.
  • Ease of use: A condom catheter can be readily used by a patient, changed, and so on. It is much easier and simpler to use and does not require much training.
  • Discreet: Condom catheters are designed to look like a regular condom and can be worn discreetly under clothing. This makes them an attractive option for men who want to manage their incontinence without drawing attention to their condition.
  • Lesser infection risk: Since a condom catheter is not inserted into the urethra, it is also less likely to cause urethral infection or urinary tract infections. After all, a condom catheter does not enter the body. 
  • Increased mobility: Condom catheters allow for more freedom of movement than traditional catheters, which can be cumbersome and may interfere with activities.

Some of the disadvantages of condom catheters are:

  • Local penile skin irritation: Since condom catheters are used for weeks, months, or even years, they might cause local irritation and even infection.
  • Risk of dislodgement: Unlike indwelling catheters, condom catheters may sometimes become dislodged, like during physical activity and even while sleeping. This can cause leakage and discomfort.
  • Challenges in finding the right size: It may be a challenge for those with small penis sizes or those with a larger penis. If the condom catheter is too loose, it may frequently become dislodged. If it is too tight, there is a higher risk of penis necrosis as a tight condom catheter may reduce local blood supply.
  • Risk of leaks: Condom catheters are less reliable than indwelling catheters, and thus there is a higher risk of leakage.

Are there any side effects or risks of using a condom catheter?

Over the long run, condom catheters may cause certain side effects, and they are not completely safe. They are more likely to cause side effects in uncircumcised penises

Studies suggest that about 40% of users, in the long run, may develop urinary tract infections.

Further studies show that another 15% of users may develop issues like local irritation, infection, ulceration, necrosis, and even gangrene.

Here it is vital to understand that condom catheters are quite safe, and most side effects occur due to improper use or lack of awareness about certain side effects. 

One can avoid these side effects by using the right-sized condom catheter, changing it every 48 hours, or as instructed by a healthcare provider. Additionally, one may discontinue their use if one develops a severe local infection, ulcers, and so on.

Is a condom catheter better than an internal catheter?

It all depends on the medical condition. For example, an internal catheter may be better for those undergoing surgery or experiencing other acute health issues. However, a condom catheter is more comfortable for prolonged use since it is non-invasive, and one does not need the help of a healthcare provider while using it.

However, condom catheters may not be suitable for some patients, like those severely ill or those living with severe urinary incontinence. On the other hand, internal catheters can stay in their place for much longer, and one does not need to change them every day or two. 

Moreover, an internal catheter allows the continuous passing of urine, which may be needed in specific medical conditions.

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What is in a condom catheter kit?

A condom catheter kit typically includes a few necessary items:

  • Condom catheter: This sheath-like device fits over the penis to collect urine. It is typically made of latex or silicone.
  • Adhesive strips: These are used to secure the condom catheter in place.
  • Collection bag: This is a bag that attaches to the end of the condom catheter to collect urine.
  • Connecting tube: This flexible tube connects the condom catheter to the collection bag.

Some condom catheter kits may also include additional items such as wipes for cleaning the area around the penis or gloves for hygiene purposes.

How to put on a condom catheter

One of the reasons for preferring condom catheters in certain medical conditions is their simplicity of use. 

Below are some of the steps to follow when using a condom catheter:

  • Begin by cleaning the penis: Use gentle soap and warm water to clean the penis and surrounding area. Make sure to dry the area thoroughly. Never use alcohol-based antiseptics to clean the penis, as they may cause severe local irritation.
  • Choose the right catheter size: Condom catheters come in different sizes, so choose one that fits your penis properly. It should fit snugly but not be too tight. Remember that condom catheter sizes do matter.
  • Apply the condom catheter: Roll the condom catheter onto the penis, ensuring it covers the head of the penis and goes down to the base. The catheter should be snug but not too tight. If condom catheter sizing is right, it must fit well.
  • Secure the catheter: Use the adhesive strips that came with the kit to secure the condom catheter in place. Make sure it is secure but not too tight.
  • Attach the collection bag: Connect the tubing to the end of the condom catheter and attach the other end to the collection bag. Make sure the tubing is not kinked or twisted.
  • Position the collection bag: Place the collection bag in a convenient and comfortable location. Make sure it is secure and not too heavy.
  • Monitor and empty the bag: Check the collection bag regularly to ensure it is not too full. When it is time to empty the bag, disconnect the tubing and drain the urine into a toilet or other appropriate location.

Remember to clean the penis and surrounding area regularly to prevent local infections. If you experience any discomfort or irritation, remove the condom catheter, and contact your healthcare provider.

Care tips to reduce complications

A condom catheter is used to manage the chronic problem of urinary incontinence. Unfortunately, it means that some individuals need to use the lifelong. 

Though the risk of developing complications is low, due to prolonged use and improper care by some users, complications can occur.

Here are a few care tips to help reduce complications when using a condom catheter:

Care tipDescription
Choose the right sizeChoose a condom catheter that fits your penis correctly. A condom catheter that is too tight can cause irritation, while one that is too loose may leak urine.  Remember that a tight condom catheter may even cause penis strangulation, a serious complication.
Clean the areaClean the penis and surrounding area regularly with soap and lukewarm water to prevent infections. Make sure to dry the area thoroughly before applying the condom catheter.
Frequently check for skin irritationCheck the skin around the condom catheter regularly for signs of irritation or redness. Remove the catheter and contact your healthcare provider if you notice any changes.
Use the right adhesiveUse the adhesive strips that came with the condom catheter kit to secure the catheter in place. Do not use additional adhesives or tapes, as they may cause skin irritation.
Monitor the collection bagCheck it regularly to ensure it is not too full. An overfilled bag can cause the tubing to disconnect or the catheter to become dislodged.
Rotate the catheterIf you need to use a condom catheter for an extended period of time, rotate it every few hours to prevent pressure sores or skin breakdown.

External catheters for women

Though there is no such thing as a condom catheter for women, similar ones are available.

There are many types of external catheters for women. Most of them have a disposable silicon cap that covers the urethra opening and is stabilized by the guide. 

This silicon urinary cap is connected to the tubing and to the urine collection bag. It can help bedridden women or those living with chronic urinary incontinence.


A male condom catheter is a sheath-like device that fits over the penis to collect urine, providing a non-invasive alternative to traditional catheterization methods. 

Proper use and care are essential to prevent complications such as skin irritation, leakage, and infection. 

When used correctly, condom catheters can be a safe and effective way for men to manage urinary incontinence or other conditions that make it difficult to urinate normally.

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  1. Cheng MC, Liu SP, Chuang YC, Hsu KCP, Chow PM. Prevalence and impacts of male urinary incontinence on quality of life, mental health, work limitation, and health care seeking in China, Taiwan, and South Korea (LUTS Asia): Results from a cross-sectional, population-based study. Investig Clin Urol. 2022;63(1):71-82. 
  2. Özkan HS, İrkoren S, Sivrioğlu N. Penile strangulation and necrosis due to condom catheter. Int Wound J. 2013;12(3):248-249. 

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