Often when people think about catheters, traditional catheters inserted into the urethra for bladder drainage come to mind. But, there are external catheter options that don’t require internal insertion. At times, external catheters are an option that works better for some patients than insertable methods.

What Are External Catheters?

External or external urinary catheters (EUC) differ from traditional catheters since they do not insert into the urethra. Instead, this catheter style uses tubing and gravity to empty urine from the bladder into a drainage bag.

There are several types of external catheters for men and women made from silicone or latex. While there are many options for men in this catheter category, there are fewer options for women.

What Are The Benefits Of Using These Catheters?

Many health experts recommend using external catheters as an alternative option when medically possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated in 2009 that clinicians “consider using external catheters as an alternative to an indwelling urinary catheter (IUC) in cooperative male patients without urinary retention or bladder outlet obstruction.”

But what are the benefits of using external catheters specifically? Here are some commonly reported examples: 


  • Comfort: Many patients report that external catheters are more comfortable to use. 
  • Independent Support: Cath users can place external catheters, which supports a more independent lifestyle. 
  • Non-Invasive: This type of catheter is non-invasive and often preferred by users and medical professionals. 
  • Safety: Due to this type of catheter not being inserted into the bladder internally, there are fewer reported risks of UTIs.

Who Can Use External Catheters?

Only some people are good candidates for external catheter usage, and only some medical conditions warrant using external catheters. Some of the most common medical conditions that use external catheters are: 

  • Collection and monitoring of urine output by healthcare providers. 
  • Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, or other cognitive impairments or diseases that make urine control difficult.
  • Mobility issues that make regular bathroom access difficult.
  • Overactive bladder (OAB) situations can lead to sudden and uncontrollable urination urges.
  • Urinary incontinence prevents patience from controlling urine output from their bladder.

You must discuss with your doctor or healthcare provider if an external catheter suits you. This catheter style is familiar with the following medical condition(s):

  • Bladder stones and urethral blockages restrict or slow down the flow of urine.
  • Situations of a neurogenic bladder prevent the emptying of the bladder due to conditions like Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
  • Urinary retention prevents the total emptying of a patient’s bladder.

What Are Male External Catheters?

Male external catheters, also referred to as condom catheters, are generally silicone rubber or latex, so there are material options for those who may be allergic to one. Condom catheters are placed over the shaft of the penis and connected to a catheter tube that leads to a drainage bag below the bladder for urine collection.

External catheters for males come in various sizes to fit different anatomical needs. To find the correct size, measure the circumference of the head of the penis and then divide by 3.14. The resulting number from this calculation will allow healthcare providers and catheter users to correctly choose the size they need using the individual sizing guide provided by the catheter manufacturer.

What Are Female External Catheters?

Few female catheter options are available, but many healthcare providers and patients prefer this form of catheter due to its non-invasiveness. Female catheters are generally made of soft and flexible materials and placed between the labia and buttocks. Gravity assists this type of external catheter by pulling urine through the catheter tube and into a collection device for disposal. There are not usually different sizes available for female external catheters; instead, they tend to be “one size fits all.”

Are There Risks Or Disadvantages To Using This Type Of Catheter?

External catheters have both positive and negative aspects. Below are some of the risks or disadvantages of using external catheters that healthcare providers and catheter users should consider when making their decision:

  • Adhesives used can cause allergic reactions in some patients.
  • It can fall off if not correctly sized.
  • When patients with cognitive impairments try to remove it, it can sometimes be too easy.
  • There is an increased risk of leakage, significantly if not sized correctly.
  • There is some risk of skin breakdown or irritation due to the friction of the catheter against the skin.

This type of catheter often has less bacterial risk than insertable catheters. However, you must watch for the following warning signs and contact your physician right away should any of them present:

  • Abdominal or urethral pain
  • Cloudy urine, urine that has a strong smell, or urine with blood in it
  • Fever
  • Foreskin swelling, which can indicate an allergy
  • Pain during or after use
  • Reduced urine output
  • Skin irritation or skin breakdown that is severe

How Active Life Medical Products Can Help With Catheter Supplies

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.