All the different types of catheters can leave you feeling overwhelmed. What kind of catheter do you need? How do you insert the catheter? What size is suitable for you? Fortunately, you’re a physician or healthcare professional who can help you with these questions. Below, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about different types of catheters, from sizing to varying styles to tip options and what works best for men and women.

Why Are Catheters Prescribed?

When your physician prescribes catheters for you, you’re having trouble regulating the normal function of emptying your bladder. Different types of catheters can help with this problem by relieving urinary retention, assisting with urinary incontinence, or supporting a situation where mental or cognitive issues prevent proper bladder control. These urinary conditions can be temporary and long-term and result from labor, dementia, paralysis, prostate enlargements, hysterectomies, surgery, and more.

Different Types Of Catheters


The different types of catheters available support a wide range of medical needs and varying anatomies. Your healthcare provider can help determine which type of catheter will work best for you, be the most efficient, and provide the most comfort. See below for some of the main types of catheters that your doctor may discuss.

  • Closed System Catheters: In a closed system kit, the catheter is pre-connected to a urine collection bag, and the catheter is pre-lubricated; this reduces touching with bare or gloved hands, thus reducing the chance of bacterial contamination. Many patients prefer this type of catheter because it is accessible to cath anywhere and at any time.
    • Usage: Self-cathing patients and caregivers.
  • External Catheters: External catheters are a preference by men and women because of their slightly less invasive design. Female urethral inserts and condom catheters are both examples of external catheters, which are both placed outside of the body. Male condom catheters are fitted over the head of the penis and connected to a tube that drains into a collection bag. In contrast, female urethral catheters are generally custom done by a urologist and go into the urethra near the end of the bladder.
    • Usage: Self-cathing patients and caregivers.
  • Foley Catheters: A nurse or doctor inserts this catheter into the urethra or abdominal incision. An indwelling catheter, or Foley catheter, is placed inside a patient’s bladder and left there for long periods. A balloon at the end of the catheter indicates when it is to be removed and needs to be removed by a physician or nurse, as most patients using this type of catheter cannot cath themselves.
    • Usage: Hospitals, nursing homes, caregivers.
  • Hydrophilic Catheters: Hydrophilic catheters have a hydrophilic coating that, when activated by water, will lubricate the catheter for easy placement. Patients prefer this type of catheter due to the ease of use and the reduction in contamination possibility with pre-lubrication.
    • Usage: Self-cathing patients and caregivers.
  • Intermittent Catheters: Intermittent catheters are one of the most commonly prescribed styles of catheters. This type of catheter is generally single-use and meant to be used and discarded, thus giving it the common name of an “in and out” catheter. Intermittent catheters connect to a drainage bag that can be disposed of or emptied into the toilet. Both ambulatory and non-ambulatory patients use intermittent catheters, which are generally easy to place and drain.
    • Usage: Self-cathing patients and caregivers.

Catheter Sizes:

Catheters use the French size method, indicating the size of the catheter tubing, to determine the proper size in millimeters. 

The millimeter diameter size of a catheter is multiplied by 3 to determine the French size of a catheter tube. For instance, if a catheter has a millimeter size of 4, this would be multiplied by three, giving you a French size of 12. 

The colors indicated in the sizing chart above correspond with the funnel attachments used with different types of catheters. If the catheter tubing is not the correct size, the urine will either not drain fast enough or cause the user pain. Your physician or urologist can help determine the right French size for your catheter.

Catheter Insertion Tips:

Your healthcare provider will help determine which catheter insertion tip is right for you. It’s important to discuss this closely with your provider because the catheter tip you choose directly correlates with your comfort level. 

Two main catheter tips are used with catheters:

  • Coudé Tip: Coudé tips are bent or curved at the end. This type of catheter tip works well for patients who have certain medical conditions, such as certain cancers or a urethral blockage. This catheter tip is used in women but most often for men.
  • Straight Tip: Straight tips allow for comfortable insertion for most patients and have no curve or bend at the end.

Are There Different Types Of Catheters For Men And Women? 

Men and women often use the same types of catheters. However, certain medical situations and varying anatomical differences can sometimes call for catheters that work more specifically for men or women.

  • Female Urethral Inserts: Female urethral catheters are generally custom fitted and go into the urethra near the end of the bladder to create a seal. These types of catheters are connected to a tube that drains into a collection bag for disposal.
  • Male External Catheters: External external catheters, also known as condom catheters, fit over the male’s penis and are held using adhesive or straps. This type of urinary catheter is changed often and drains directly into a collection bag for disposal.

Using Different Types Of Catheters:

Placing catheters is easy for most people, regardless of whether they are self-cathing or have a caregiver assist them. Your physician or healthcare professional will help train you on using catheters initially and determine the best and easiest way to place them yourself or with assistance. You must always consult your healthcare professional when using a new medical device or any different type of catheter. 

How Active Life Medical Products Can Help With Catheter


You need a trusted catheter product supplier when you require catheter supplies. Active Life Medical Products makes ordering the entire catheter supply process easy. Our Product Specialists can help you get your prescribed catheter covered through most insurances. Everything will be delivered directly and discreetly to your front door.

Call Active Life Medical Products at (800) 319-2336 to place your order.