External catheters are used for a variety of positive reasons. If indwelling and intermittent catheters make you uncomfortable, then you might want to look into how an external catheter works and if it is relevant to your lifestyle and needs.
Before exploring if external catheters are easy-to-use, let’s look at how they operate to get a better understanding.
External Catheters have the following parts:
A condom-like sheath that envelops the penis with a hole at the end. From this whole, a tube leads into a drainage bag located below. The material of the sheath is of utmost importance. Because it comes into contact with the penis at all times, materials that cause allergies should not be used. Silicon is recommended as it is free of latex that is known to sometimes cause irritation. Adhesive also needs to be used so that it does not slip off during the course of the day.
Compared to the other types that require insertion of tubes right into the urethra, the external catheter is much more convenient as all it needs is for the patient to unroll the “condom” catheter onto the penis. Then you are able to connect the tubing of correct length into the drainage bag. External catheters are known as condom catheters because of their resemblance to the condom. This process can be done by anyone unlike the indwelling types which need manual dexterity.
With external catheters, comfort and adhesion are issues and since they usually come in a number of sizes. Sizing charts are available that should be used to get the right sized catheter. Large sized external catheters may chafe the skin and cause irritation while smaller sized ones can also cause discomfort from tightness. So, choose the size which fits correctly.
The procedure for fitting the condom catheter is to first wash and dry the penis. Next, apply an ointment that protects the skin from contact with urine. Once this is done, get your condom catheter ready and slowly unroll the sheath over the penis, leaving a space between the tip and the point at which urine flows out. Suitable adhesive may be used if necessary. Finally connect the tubing on the other end to the urine collection bag which is strapped secured to the thigh. Use expandable straps if the normal ones are too tight for you. The bag has a capacity of close to 1000 ml or more and needs to be emptied per instruction.
For women, external catheters do exist in the form of a pouch shaped collection device connected to the drainage bag through tubing. However, these are not practical for those who are bed-ridden. Also, there is still on-going research to improve the device for easier usage.
Now that you know the procedure for attaching an external catheter, it goes without saying that this type is easier to use than the indwelling catheter.
However, there are a few cases where using this catheter can be problematic. This occurs for old men whose penis retracts and this can cause the sheath to not fix properly. More care has to be taken to find the correct sized catheter here.