Urological Community

Getting Started with Male External Catheters

Gina Flores
Caregiver Advocate | Shield HealthCare
04/16/12  10:09 PM PST
Male External Catheter

If you have been told that the best solution for your incontinence are male external catheters or you are planning to try this system, this information will help you wear the device more comfortably and get the most wear time from it. Not all condom catheters are the same, so you may need to try several types before finding the one that suits you best.

Originally condom catheters were just that – a condom with the end cut off, so it could be attached to a drainage tube and collection bag away from the body. Now these devices are very carefully made. They come in several sizes, with and without adhesive and with other special features. The National Association for Continence (NAFC) advises that you see a nurse specialist who is experienced in sizing and teaching men to use condom catheters.

Here are basic tips to get you started right with Male External Catheters:

• Buy the right size. A measuring guide will help you select the size that is best for you.

• Clip hair on and/or around your penis and any pubic hair that might get caught as the condom catheter is rolled to the base of the penis.

• Wash your penis and blot dry. The skin must be dry and warm. 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 not so moist.

• Apply a skin prep sealant. 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 perspiration and urine moisture; and when you remove the condom catheter, the layer of skin sealant – not the external layer of your skin – will be removed.

• Hold your penis and place the rolled condom catheter 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. 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.

• 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 condom are sealed together and to eliminate any air bubbles. If there are many wrinkles in the sheath, then 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. You should carefully snip the remaining roll in several places or remove it completely to ensure that the roll will not cause pressure sores at the base of the penis or cause the condom catheter to come off.

Male External Catheters: Latex Allergies and Adhesives

Non-latex condom catheters are available for those who may have a latex allergy. This is particularly important for people with spina bifida. Another advantage of the non-latex condom catheters is the clear material from which they are made. This allows you to see through it to check for proper placement when you are putting it on and to keep tabs on the condition of your skin while you are wearing it.

There are also a variety of condom catheters without adhesive. If you are going to wear a condom catheter during the day, but not at night, you probably should consider one without adhesive. If you have recently had prostate surgery and you urinate regularly but still have some leakage in between, or you do intermittent catheterization and you still have leakage in between, you should consider either a reusable condom catheter that is held in place with an inflatable ring or the self-adhesive condom catheter that has a removable tip. They can be easily removed and replaced each time you urinate or catheterize.

You may also find our Male External Catheter Troubleshooting Guide helpful.

Source: National Association for Continence

Always consult your doctor before trying anything recommended in this article or any other publication that speaks to general health issues.

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



  1. Valentin D.
    Posted January 10, 2014 at 8:19 am PST

    I use a male external condom catheter Freedom ” Clear Advantage Aloe Vera ” and a leg bag with a tubing .
    Q : how long I may keep this on my penis with no danger for infection : 24 hours , 48 hours before I change ?

  2. Posted January 11, 2014 at 11:36 pm PST

    Hello, Valentin, and thank you for your question! The National Association for Continence recommends that condom catheters are changed at least once daily. Manufacturers of condom catheters include wear time instructions with the device as well, and in many cases also recommend changing at least once every 24 hours. However, every person’s skin is different, and the materials used by manufacturers in each product line differs as well. We recommend you talk to your primary care physician or a nurse specialist about any skin care concerns you may have. -Brooke, Shield HealthCare

  3. Tony Ruiz
    Posted January 23, 2014 at 4:22 pm PST

    Thank you for this helpful information. I’ve been through the mill with incontinence and am at full circle now coming back to what I like the best but wasn’t exposed to the best of it. I have renewed hope. My AMS 800 sphincter valve works fine but my neo bladder isn’t compatible with it because it would form obstructions, sometimes stones or mucous, that wouldn’t pass through the AMS valve I used for years without a problem. My urologist here in Prescott was thinking about sending me back to USC for an “ostomy”, sticking the end of my urethra thru my skin at some location to be determined. Ouch! I don’t think so if I can get this condom catheter thing to work right and work well. Any help? Maybe even an area consultant on this sort of thing? I’m in the Prescott AZ area but also can travel, hopefully not too far.

  4. Tony Ruiz
    Posted January 24, 2014 at 1:39 am PST

    The National Association for Continence (NAFC) advises that you see a nurse specialist who is experienced in sizing and teaching men to use condom catheters.

    How and where can I find one of them to work with me?

  5. Posted January 25, 2014 at 11:49 pm PST

    Hello, Tony, and thank you for your questions! You are correct: the National Association for Continence (NAFC) does advise you to see a nurse specialist who is experienced in sizing and teaching men to use condom catheters. In this case, we strongly recommend you ask your primary care physician for a referral to a qualified nurse specialist in your health care group. Your urologist may also be able to recommend a qualified nurse specialist with experience in this area.

    Another excellent resource is the NAFC website. They offer a “Find An Expert” tool to help you locate a specialist or expert in your area that meets or exceeds NAFC screening criteria: http://www.nafc.org/find-an-expert/. You may also contact the NAFC with your question here: http://www.nafc.org/contact/.

    We hope you find this information helpful. Thank you, and have a wonderful day!

  6. Posted January 27, 2014 at 5:48 am PST

    I’m checking this for my husband Earl. Out of all the blogs, this was the only one that explained how one is used. Thank you. We’ll now talk to his doctor and get a prescription. Donna McCauley

  7. Posted January 27, 2014 at 11:25 pm PST

    Thank you, Donna! We’re so glad you found this article useful.

  8. Rocky Darbee
    Posted February 26, 2014 at 3:23 am PST

    I am new using a condom catheter. I have had used Foley and suprapubic catheters for 4 years. My condom catheter does not drain into the night bag by its self. I have to get out of bed and stand up every 2 to 3 hours to drain the urine. I normally do not notice any twisting or anything stopping the drainage. I have not had this problem with any of my previous catheters. Any ideas?

  9. Posted March 24, 2014 at 6:42 pm PDT

    Hello Rocky, Thank you for your question! In this case, we recommend that you contact your primary care physician or urologist. Your physician may also be able to refer you to a qualified nurse specialist with experience in external catheters. Thank you, and have a wonderful day.

  10. lisa
    Posted January 6, 2015 at 5:47 pm PST

    I’m new at putting on condom catheter, They keep falling off during the night and leaving my client wet, The other care giver seems to have no problems, what could I be doing wrong ? Please any advise would be greatly appreciated !

  11. Aimee Sharp
    Posted January 7, 2015 at 11:12 pm PST

    Hi Lisa. Thank you for your question! You may find the advice, also featured above, helpful: “Sometimes the condom catheter does not fully unroll, and a roll of the condom will remain at the base of the penis. You should carefully snip the remaining roll in several places or remove it completely to ensure that the roll will not cause pressure sores at the base of the penis or cause the condom catheter to come off.” We would also recommend showing this article to your fellow caregiver and asking her to clarify our advice further. If you are still having trouble, we would recommend contacting your client’s primary care physician or urologist. A physician may also be able to refer you to a qualified nurse specialist with experience in external catheters. Thank you, and have a wonderful day.

    -Aimee from Shield

  12. rejon ahmed
    Posted January 12, 2015 at 4:25 pm PST

    condom use is very easy so i like it

  13. Robert
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 12:36 am PDT

    I “m having a problem when I remove the condom catheter the next morning it sicks to the skin and it become’s very painful with in a few days , then I’m unable to use them for at lest 3 days. do you have any advice ?

  14. Aimee Sharp
    Posted April 21, 2015 at 11:43 pm PDT

    Hello Robert. Thank you for your question. While we definitely recommend speaking to your physician about this issue, we can point you to our article, “Male External Catheter Troubleshooting Guide” and the following suggestion within it:

    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, not hot water to prevent skin burns.

    Thank you, and have a great day,
    Aimee from Shield

  15. teboho
    Posted November 23, 2015 at 5:05 am PST

    Please help where can I buy it??? I did try two pharmacy’s so far but nothing and they don’t know what I’m talking about

  16. Aimee Sharp
    Posted November 24, 2015 at 4:56 pm PST

    Hi Teboho. Thank you for your question. We would recommend looking into ordering a MEC online. If you search for “buy male external catheter” and your area, hopefully you will be able to find a site that can ship to you. Thank you again for commenting. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  17. Posted December 9, 2015 at 7:36 pm PST

    Can I get these over the counter or do I need a doctor order. My Dad has become incontinent since his above the knee amputation. We need something to help us keep him dry

  18. Posted December 11, 2015 at 8:55 am PST

    Hi Tammy, you should be able to purchase male external catheters and leg bags or other accessories without a prescription. However, we do strongly recommend that he visits his primary care physician to find out what underlying diagnoses could be causing the incontinence. Many diagnoses that cause incontinence are treatable, and his physician may wish to make individualized product or treatment recommendations. Our product experts would also be happy to assist you in finding the right products – please visit http://shieldhealthcare.com/company/locations/ to contact the closest office to you. If we don’t have an office in your state, we would still be happy to assist you! -Brooke, Shield HealthCare

  19. Mark thicksten
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 5:29 am PST

    I use a condom cath 24/7 and have a few years. Usually you will find 1 pharmacy that deals with ostomy supplies and they should carry these products.

    It seems like the products are a huge secret or somethin . Elderly men need this when they start having walking problems. It sure helps with trips to the bathroom.

    A urologist should have the information and access to a trained nurse to help get started. Urgency and lack of control can ruin your life. A condom cath will give you lost freedom and security

  20. Adele
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 5:08 am PST

    My patient is 80+ years old and has developed incontinence problem. He is getting weaker day by day and can’t walk to the wash room often. I am trying to put on an external catheter but does not help . The videos show erect penises while putting on catheter; However when the penis is flaccid, there not much room to roll on the catheter. Can you please help with this situation?

  21. Aimee Sharp
    Posted January 18, 2016 at 9:03 am PST

    Hi Adele. Thank you for your comment. We would recommend bringing up this issue with a urologist, and possibly getting a second opinion if not satisfied with the answer. We would also recommend using incontinence problems if catheters are posing too much of a problem. Thank you. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  22. Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:50 pm PST

    My husband has health issues, his penis shrinks where you barely see the head. The condom Cather falls off and pee goes everywhere. his arms are to short to hold the urinal, he’s wheelchair bond. what can we do?

  23. Aimee Sharp
    Posted January 18, 2016 at 3:36 pm PST

    Hi Lynn. Thank you for your comment. I’ve consulted our urology product manager. His answer is as follows, “As always, I suggest that you consult with your husband’s doctor, but there is an alternative to a male external catheter that he may want to try. External collection devices called male urinary pouches are designed for this specific need. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  24. Tom
    Posted January 19, 2016 at 6:27 am PST

    I would like to know if I can wear a condom catheter, the kind without adhesive and if it can be left on for more then 24 hours…At present I have a suprapubic and recently my nurse came to change it and did not do it correctly so now there is a hollow space near the bladder where the tip of the catheter is supposed to go.
    What can be done about this Thanks in advance

  25. Aimee Sharp
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:30 am PST

    Hi Tom. Thank you for your comment. Because everyone’s case can be different, and wear-times with MECs can vary, we’d recommend discussing your particular case with your urologist, and getting a second opinion if you want/if that’s possible. If you’re unhappy with your nurse, you should speak about that with your doctor as well, and even ask for a different one. You may also find our article on MEC troubleshooting helpful. Best of luck. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  26. Valerie
    Posted June 26, 2016 at 8:16 pm PDT

    My husband is 73yrs old. He wears condom caths. But lately his penis has been shrinking internally and the Cath comes off, what can be done about this?

  27. Aimee Sharp
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 4:09 pm PDT

    Hi Valerie. Thanks for commenting. After speaking to our urological product manager, we would recommend the Hollister Retracted Penis Pouch. We hope you find that product helpful. Best of luck. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  28. Darrell
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 6:50 am PDT

    I just had my prostate removed. I am active and play golf 3 times per week. I have been wearing a regular condom and then going in the trees to empty it. The once in a while it slides off defeating the purpose.

    Is there a very small collection bag available that would strap to my leg or keep in my underwear that would allow me make the the moves necessary for Golf.

  29. Aimee Sharp
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 4:08 pm PDT

    Hi Darrell. Thanks for commenting. I spoke with our urological product manager, and he pointed me to this item, the Conveen Active Thigh Bag. We hope that helps! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  30. david cox
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 6:42 pm PDT

    hi i started using coloplast cathers a few years ago some times the cather wiill come of with in 4 to 6 hours this happen most when my suppler was change and sent me old discontinued urine bags with clear tubbing i watch a youtube vedio about these colopast discontenue these bags as they kinck which block urine flow im working with my caseworker to change supplyer to get prober bags i have mild cp and mild spia bifia have an over active bladder i have tryed every depend out on market they leak stink and cause a sever groin rash your thaught on what i mention above

  31. Aimee Sharp
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 4:05 pm PDT

    Hi David. Thanks for commenting. We hope that your new supplier is able to get you the bags you need. In the meantime, if you still find yourself using diapers, here is an article that has tips to prevent leaks. Best of luck. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  32. Reynaldo
    Posted July 23, 2016 at 3:17 pm PDT

    I neet to know what to do I can not empty my bladder

  33. Aimee Sharp
    Posted August 11, 2016 at 9:19 am PDT

    Hi Reynaldo. Thank you for commenting. We hope your situation has been solved, but if you’re still encountering issues with emptying your bladder, the only thing we can recommend with this amount of information is to contact your doctor. We wish you the best of luck. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  34. rocky
    Posted May 20, 2017 at 6:10 pm PDT

    I’ve been using 28 mm condoms for 2 1/2 mths the last few days they nolonger stay on. Any thoughts?

  35. Aimee Sharp
    Posted May 31, 2017 at 8:35 am PDT

    Hi Rocky. Thank you for commenting. We would recommend taking a look at our Male External Catheter Troubleshooting: Sizing Importance article for tips about how to make sure you have the correct size. We would also suggest making an appointment with your urologist. Best of luck. -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  36. Posted January 26, 2019 at 1:56 pm PST

    I am new to using catheters and am trialling different external catheters for size,fit,comfort etc. This has arisen due to Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis moving forward a stage and includes faecal incontinence.
    I have been given negligible advice and battled to get a sheath that would fit as most seemed to be fitted to an erect,or semi-erect penis in the videos and in that ‘condition’ I could barely pass onto the glans with a large Conveen sample.
    I have the added disadvantages that I have considerable free foreskin (and a torn off frenum/frenulum) which gives a huge amount of movement when fitting the sheath.
    ANY advice would be hugely beneficial,I am currently using an’adult nappy’to solve both problems, and it does the jobs fine,but my MS team consider that I could do better.


  37. Aimee Sharp
    Posted March 7, 2019 at 2:03 pm PST

    Hi Adrian. Thank you for emailing us. We spoke with one of the nurses we work closely with, Kelly, and she wrote: “This is one that typically works on uncircumcised men and they can pull the foreskin over the top: http://www.bioderminc.com/mens-liberty-acute-external-catheter/” We hope you find that information helpful. Best of luck. – Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  38. Posted June 22, 2019 at 10:51 pm PDT

    Removal is easy and painless. The catheter can be removed by detaching the catheter from the urine bag connector and carefully rolling it off the penis. If you need to, use warm soapy water to help remove the catheter. It can then be disposed of in the trash, with general household waste. Finish by washing your hands. Change the male external catheter everyday and change the bag according to recommendations from your healthcare professional.

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