Male External Catheter Troubleshooting Guide

Incontinence Product Manager | Shield HealthCare
10/25/11  5:22 PM PST
Male external catheter

Some of the most common problems experienced with male external catheters (also known as condom catheters) can easily be solved by following basic guidelines for everyday comfort and security.

Here’s a quick guide to frequently noted problems and easy solutions for male external catheter users:

Problem: Leakage or skin irritation. Solution: The golden rule for male external catheters is to get the correct size. Choosing the right diameter and sheath length can help prevent leakage. A catheter that is too tight can irritate the skin. If the catheter is too large, leakage will occur. Sizing guides are available from catheter suppliers to ensure the best fit. A ribbon style tape measure may also be used for help with sizing. Another key to success with male external catheters is making sure the skin is completely dry before putting on the catheter.

Problem: Removing the catheter is painful. Solution: A popular technique for gently removing condom catheters is to take a warm washcloth and wrap it around the catheter. Leave on for a minute to loosen any adhesive material. Take caution to use warm water, not hot water, to prevent skin burns.

Problem: Urine backflow. Solution: Keep the drainage bag below the level of the bladder so urine will flow downward through gravity.

Problem: The catheter is being pulled or tugged. Solution: Keep the tubing secured to the upper thigh at all times to reduce tension on the catheter. Catheter straps are often used to secure extension tubing in place.

Problem: Urine is not draining into the leg bag or urine collection device. Solution: Regularly empty the leg bag or collection device, always leaving a small amount of urine in the bag to avoid creating a vacuum. When a vacuum is created, it prevents urine from draining into the bag or collection unit.

It’s important to contact your healthcare professional directly if you are experiencing issues with your male external catheter such as swelling, rash, pain or extreme discomfort.

Source: Coloplast Urology and Continence Care

For more information, see related articles and ostomy resources here:

Recent Urological


  1. After right hemi colectomy, twoc failed after several weeks, now keep getting feeling of need to urinate, Next appointment 3 weeks time , should I just continue till then or seek help.thank you James

  2. i have a neo bladder and have to cather 4 to 5 times a day sometimes I cannot get the catheter in all the time unless it is the red rubber one if I try one time catheters sometimes might work sometimes might not. I would like to use the one time catheters when im not home but can not aways doit any sugesstions.

    1. Hi Sam. Thank you for your comment. Our advice is to speak with your healthcare professional about the issues you’re experiencing.

  3. Nurse at hospital inserted what I sort of thought was too large of a catheter. When she removed it she had me almost off the bed. This was most painful. Now my penis seems to want to just draw up inside. There is no pain, but I have small leakage. What has happened here?

    1. Hello, Keith. Thank you for your comment. We would recommend speaking with your urologist or primary care physician about these issues.

  4. I suffer from chaffing. I understand that a type of ‘condom’ is on the market which slips over the penis and allows the catheter to protrude. Have you any idea what this item is called, and whether or not it would work?


    1. Hi Robert. Are you looking for condom catheters? Here is an article that talks about them and the importance of sizing:

      And here are some products you may be looking for:

      As for whether or not it will work for you, we would recommend speaking with your urologist or primary care physician about these issues.

      -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  5. Have you heard anything about people intermittent catheterizing while the condom catheter is still on. Just disconnecting the tubing not the entire condom catheter. The hope is to decrease irritation with the removal and reapplication of the condom catheter every 4 hours. If so do you know of any literature regarding UTI prevalence with using this method.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Stephanie. Thank you for your comment. I spoke with our product manager about this concept and he agreed it was interesting and thought it may be a sound idea, but isn’t aware of any research on the subject. Will you please comment again with any information you find? Again, thank you for bringing this to our attention. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  6. i have urine leaky some times thur the day and a night i was in depends but this caused sever rash so i found coloplast tryed it and likeed very much im on odsp which cover the cost but my worker went with a new company, they supply almost the same thing there bags had straite tubbing and my cattaters it came off so i had another bag with flexable tubbing and this work great would you know why this worked better

    1. Hi David. Thanks for your comment. I spoke to our urological product manager, and he thinks that the flexible tubbing worked better because, “Flexible tubing allows it to move when the body moves. This flexibility reduces the stress on the connection points and will help to reduce leaks.” We hope that answer helps. Please let us know if you have any other questions. Thanks! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  7. There is a little white puss coming out of my penis where the catheter goes in, do I have an infection what should I do ? I have a doctor appt on Friday.

    1. Hi David. Thank you for your comment. We definitely recommend seeing your doctor as soon as possible, even before tomorrow if that is feasible. They will be able to let you know whether or not you have an infection and what your next steps should be. Thank you. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  8. man I help take care of has an internal catheter. However, there was damage to the urethra done when it was put in and he is leaking from the cath. I would love to suggest an external cath till healing can occur. Any thoughts? Any questions I should be asking or suggestions to help with healing? Thanks,

    1. Hi Leanna. Thank you for your question. I’ve consulted with our urology product manager about this, and he said to answer, “Damage to the urethra can be a serious problem, I suggest that you contact his doctor for clarification on what may be best for him.” Again, thank you for commenting. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  9. Is there an adhesive that can be used along with the external catheter to keep slippage of the condom catheter on? Thank you

    1. Hi Shannon, thank you for the question! Most male external catheters have an adhesive already on the inside to prevent them from slipping off. These are called “self-adhering”. There are others that do not have adhesive and rely on an adhesive strap, which is a foam tape, that wraps around the outside to hold it on. If you would like to speak to a product specialist for more detailed information, please call 800.765.8775. We would be happy to assist you. -Brooke, Shield HealthCare

  10. My dad is experiencing extreme skin irritation on both legs. His skin is peeling an raw and itchy. He’s been to a dermatologist who fobbed it off as dry skin and prescribed E45. It is continuing to get worse and we do not know what to do. He did not have this before he had his catheter. Can you suggest anything??

    1. Hi NS. Thank you for commenting. I spoke with our urological product manager and he recommended checking on several things: Does he have an allergy to Latex? Is the condom catheter, drain bag, or tubing made of Latex? Have there been leaks? Urine can cause skin issues if allowed to remain on the skin without being cleansed. We would also recommend getting a second opinion from a dermatologist. We hope that helps and wish you the best of luck. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  11. My Dad(Charlie) has a permanent catheter -bladder doesn’t work anymore. He has leakage at the area where he lets the urine out and he has used different manufacture Foleys. My question is is this a normal occurrence?

    1. Hi there! Thank you for your comment. I have spoken with our urological product manager, and he asked me to reply with this: “I would suggest that any connection and/or bag should not leak when used per the manufacturer’s instructions. From any medical device, we would expect that there be no leaks. However, experiencing leaks is not uncommon especially as one becomes familiar with their catheters, connections, and bags.” Please let us know if you have any other questions. Thank you, and best of luck! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  12. I have Catheter. But I feel it is not keeping up with my bladder. I can move it around it will come out. But I can’t sleep or do anything. What should I do. THE ER put new catheter in and said follow up with the uroligist. But this terrible..

    1. Hi Chuck. Thanks for commenting. Yes, we definitely recommend following up with your urologist. Hopefully you have done that and the issue has been taken care of. Please keep in mind that your body may be trying to adjust to having a Foley catheter. We have heard from men who have had to use catheters that it can take some time to adjust and it isn’t necessarily easy. Best of luck. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  13. My client use silicon condom catheter. Some time after 6-7 hour it get blocked /glued from front. He goes to recreation centre every day for exercise.Any advise.

    1. Hello Ajay. Thank you for your comment. We always recommend asking the patient’s physician when possible. But to help answer your question, we did speak with Barbara West, a nurse who has presented some of our webinars. She asks: “Is the tubing getting twisted or kinked? Does it happen only when he is exercising, or just always after 6-7 hours? Do they have to change the condom cath right then, or are they able to get it flowing again somehow? I think it’s great that he’s exercising every day!” Please let us know the answers to her questions and we’ll send them along to her to further investigate the issue. Thanks again and we hope the issue is already better! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  14. My husband was going to try the condem style catheter, but it will not adhere to his skin, there were no straps with the catheter and none shown on the directions that came in the box. What do I need to do?

    1. Hi Kathy, thank you for your question. We’re sorry you’re experiencing issues. I’m not sure how to help without knowing which product your husband received. Please call our customer service line at 1 (800) 228-7150 to discuss with an experienced representative about your order and possible alternatives or instructions. Thank you!

  15. Hi please help,struggling with concern,I am circumcised,should I pull foreskin back,Feels loose to apply if not? The concern keeps detaching when I pre,I am totally losing confidence now and wont/can’t come out. Have now got different optima conveen but scared to try as I just don’t know what to do about the whole circumcision problems! Many thanks

    1. Hello there, thank you for your question. Most uncircumcised men leave their foreskin in place, over the head of the penis. Serious swelling of the foreskin, called “phimosis”, may result if the foreskin of the uncircumsized man is not kept over the head of the penis. If you are circumcised, there are still other factors to considers, such as correct size and adhesive. Please refer to this article for instructions on using male external catheters: Getting Started with Male External Catheters.
      You might also refer to an instructional video for Conveen catheters: How to Apply a Male External Catheter We’d also recommend contacting your medical supply company and requesting to sample different products to find one that works best for you. Here is Shield HealthCare’s customer service line: 800-228-7150.

  16. Hello, I have a COLOPLAST CONVEEN condom catheter but unfortunately when I urinate at night it pops off, what could be the problem?

    1. Hi John. Thank you for your question. Hmm, our recommendation would be to try a different size. First we would recommend a smaller size, and if that doesn’t work, trying a larger size. We would also suggest applying a small amount of medical tape just to secure the catheter at the base. And make sure that the catheter is pretty snug, nice and tight. You don’t want any kinks or folds, because once you’re urinating, that could be causing the problem, that the fluid is getting into the condom itself and filling up and breaking the seal. We hope these suggestion help, and best of luck! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  17. Unable to attach bag to the condom Catheters are there any that fit better? Seems tip of bag is to big for inserting the tip into the condom. Looking for solutions

    1. Hi John. Thank you for your question. Hmm, well, one alternative is the Men’s Liberty System. You can take a look at what we offer and see what you think. It’s not a condom catheter, though it is similar — many men find it provides a better fit. Hope that helps and best of luck! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

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