Choosing the Right Catheter: A Guide for Men

Angela Breslin, RN
June 5, 2024
min read


When it comes to managing urinary incontinence in men, choosing the right catheter is crucial. Catheters for men come in various types and materials, each with unique benefits and potential drawbacks. Here’s a quick overview to help you understand your options:

  • Straight Catheter: Used for intermittent self-catheterization. Easy to use but requires proper lubrication.
  • Indwelling Catheter: Stays in place with a balloon to prevent slipping. Suitable for long-term use but may cause discomfort.
  • Condom Catheter: Fits over the penis, non-invasive. Needs frequent checks to prevent skin irritation.

Selecting the right catheter ensures better comfort, reduces health risks, and improves your overall quality of life.

Comfort and Health Impact:A poorly chosen catheter can cause pain, infections, or other complications. The right catheter minimizes discomfort and enhances your daily routine.

Understanding these differences is the first step to making an informed decision about your health and comfort.

Types of male catheters: straight, indwelling, condom - catheter for men infographic pillar-4-steps

Understanding Catheters for Men

Choosing the right catheter for men is essential for comfort and health. Let's break down the main types, materials, lengths, and French sizes of catheters.

Types of Male Catheters

Intermittent Catheters
Intermittent catheters are used temporarily to drain urine and then removed. They are great for people who can self-cath. These catheters are typically single-use, reducing the risk of infection.

External Catheters
Also known as condom catheters, these fit over the penis like a condom. They are non-invasive and connect to a drainage bag. They need frequent checks to prevent skin irritation and ensure a secure fit.

Indwelling Catheters (Foley Catheters)
These catheters remain in place for longer periods. A small balloon at the end keeps them in the bladder. They are ideal for those who cannot self-cath but come with a higher risk of infections.

Materials Used in Catheters

Silicone catheters are hypoallergenic, flexible, and smooth, reducing irritation. They are ideal for long-term use and for those with latex allergies.

Vinyl (PVC)
Vinyl catheters are flexible and cost-effective. They are commonly used for intermittent catheterization.

Red Rubber
Once popular, red rubber catheters are now less common due to latex allergies. They are very flexible but not recommended for those with latex sensitivity.

Catheter Lengths and Sizes

Male Anatomy
Men typically require longer catheters due to the length of the male urethra. Male catheters are usually around 16 inches long, but shorter options like pocket catheters (around 13 inches) are also available for convenience.

French Sizes
French size measures the diameter of the catheter. The right size ensures efficient drainage and comfort. Using a catheter that's too small can cause leaks, while a too-large catheter can be painful.

Most catheters use a universal color-coding system for easy identification of French sizes. Your healthcare provider will help you determine the right size for you.

Understanding these factors can help you choose the best catheter for your needs. Always consult with your healthcare provider to ensure you're using the right catheter for your condition.

catheter types - catheter for men

How to Use a Catheter for Men

Insertion Tips for Male Catheters

Using a catheter for men might seem daunting at first, but with the right techniques, it becomes manageable. Here are some key tips:

1. Straight Tip vs. Coudé Tip:

  • Straight Tip Catheters: Most men use straight tip catheters. These have a simple, straight design and are easy to insert.
  • Coudé Tip Catheters: If you have trouble with straight tips due to an enlarged prostate or urethral strictures, a coudé tip might help. The curved tip can bypass blockages more easily.

2. Lubrication:

  • External Lubrication: Apply a water-based lubricant like K-Y Jelly to the first 2 inches of the catheter. This reduces friction and makes insertion smoother.
  • Pre-lubricated Catheters: Some catheters come pre-lubricated or are hydrophilic, meaning they become slippery when wet. These can be more convenient and comfortable.

3. Insertion Steps:

  1. Wash Your Hands: Always start by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  2. Prepare the Catheter: Open the catheter package and apply lubricant if it’s not pre-lubricated.
  3. Clean the Area: Use a towelette or antiseptic wipe to clean the tip of your penis.
  4. Insert the Catheter: Hold your penis straight out and gently insert the catheter. Don’t force it; if you encounter resistance, try to relax and breathe deeply.
  5. Drain Urine: Once urine starts to flow, insert the catheter a bit more to ensure it’s fully in the bladder.
  6. Remove the Catheter: After the urine stops, slowly remove the catheter, pinching the end to avoid spills.

Maintaining Hygiene and Safety

Keeping your catheter clean and using it safely is crucial to prevent infections and other complications.

1. Sterilization:

  • Single-Use Catheters: Most catheters are designed for single use. Dispose of them after each use to minimize infection risk.
  • Reusable Catheters: If you must reuse a catheter, clean it thoroughly. Rinse it with a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water, or soak it in hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes. Rinse again with cold water and let it dry before storing in a clean plastic bag.

2. Touch-Free Options:

  • No-Touch Catheters: These catheters come with a protective sleeve, so you don’t touch the catheter directly. This reduces the risk of contamination.
  • Closed System Catheters: These are self-contained units that include a catheter and a urine collection bag. They are sterile and great for travel or when you’re away from home.

3. Regular Cleaning:

  • Daily Cleaning: If using a reusable catheter, clean it every day. Keep the insertion area clean before and after catheterization.
  • Hand Hygiene: Always wash your hands before and after handling the catheter.

By following these steps, you can ensure a safer and more comfortable catheterization experience. Proper hygiene and the right techniques are key to preventing complications and maintaining your health.

Next, we’ll address some common questions about catheters for men to help you understand more about their use and care.

Common Questions About Catheters for Men

Is a Catheter Painful for a Man?

Using a catheter can cause some discomfort, but it shouldn't be painful. The level of discomfort varies depending on the type of catheter and individual sensitivity.

Anaesthetic Use: For procedures involving indwelling catheters, a healthcare provider often uses a local anaesthetic to numb the area. This reduces discomfort during insertion.

Discomfort Management: Straight catheters and hydrophilic catheters are designed to minimize discomfort. Hydrophilic catheters, for example, have a special coating that becomes slippery when activated by water, making insertion smoother and more comfortable.

How Long Can a Man Wear a Catheter?

The duration a catheter can be worn depends on the type of catheter used.

Indwelling Catheters:These catheters can remain in place for extended periods, but they need to be changed regularly—typically every 1 to 3 months to prevent infections and other complications. Always follow your healthcare provider's advice on replacement frequency.

Intermittent Catheters:These are used for single-use only and should be discarded after each use. They are inserted several times a day to drain the bladder and then removed.

Professional Assistance:If you're unsure about how long to keep a catheter in place or when to replace it, consult your healthcare provider for guidance.

Can I Pee with a Catheter?

Yes, but the process is different from normal urination.

Mechanism: A catheter drains urine directly from the bladder. For indwelling catheters, urine flows continuously into a drainage bag. With intermittent catheters, you manually drain the bladder by inserting the catheter several times a day.

Drainage Options: - Indwelling Catheters: Use a collection bag that can be attached to your leg or bed.- External Catheters: Like the condom catheter, which fits over the penis and drains urine into a bag.- Intermittent Catheters: These are used to empty the bladder and then removed, so no bag is needed.

Removal Process: For intermittent catheters, simply remove and discard after use. Indwelling catheters should be removed by a healthcare professional to avoid complications.

Understanding these aspects can help you manage your catheter use effectively and comfortably. Up next, we’ll explore advanced catheter options and their benefits.

Advanced Catheter Options and Their Benefits

Hydrophilic and Pre-lubricated Catheters

Hydrophilic catheters are a step up from standard catheters due to their special coating. When activated by water, this coating becomes super slippery, reducing friction and making insertion and removal much smoother. This can minimize discomfort and lower the risk of urethral damage.

For instance, the GentleCath Glide Male Catheter requires manual activation with an included water packet. Once activated, users report a more comfortable experience. Some hydrophilic catheters, like the Bard Magic3 GO Male Catheter, are pre-hydrated and ready to use straight out of the package, making them incredibly convenient.

Pre-lubricated catheters also eliminate the need for additional lubricating jelly. They come ready to use, reducing preparation time and mess. Many of these catheters include a no-touch handling sleeve, allowing you to handle the catheter without touching the tube itself. This reduces the risk of bacterial contamination and infection.

Benefits of Hydrophilic and Pre-lubricated Catheters:

  • Less Mess: No need for separate lubricants.
  • Ease of Use: Ready-to-use designs save time.
  • Touchless Handling: Reduces infection risk.
  • Comfort: Smoother insertion and removal.

Closed System Catheters

Closed system catheters are designed for maximum sterility and convenience. These catheters come pre-lubricated or hydrophilic and are housed in their own sterile collection bag. This makes them ideal for users who need to catheterize in less-than-ideal conditions, such as while traveling or when using a wheelchair.

A popular example is the Hollister VaPro Plus Touch-Free Male Catheter. It includes an integrated collection bag and a protective touch-free sleeve, ensuring that the catheter remains sterile throughout the process. This can significantly reduce the risk of infection.

Benefits of Closed System Catheters:

  • Self-Contained: Everything you need is in one package.
  • Sterile Environment: Reduces the risk of contamination.
  • Travel-Friendly: Ideal for use on the go.
  • Convenient: Often includes additional supplies like gloves and antiseptic wipes.

These advanced options can make a significant difference in comfort and safety for users. Up next, we'll discuss how to choose the right catheter with ProMed DME.

Choosing the Right Catheter with ProMed DME

Choosing the right catheter for men can feel overwhelming, but ProMed DME is here to help. Our expert team provides guidance, insurance support, and excellent customer service to make the process smooth and stress-free.

Expert Consultation

At ProMed DME, we offer personalized consultations to help you choose the best catheter for your needs. Our knowledgeable staff can guide you based on your medical condition, preferences, and your healthcare provider's advice.

For instance, Bob, one of our valued customers, shared, "Initially, the thought of using a catheter was intimidating. But with the support of the ProMed DME team, I learned how to safely self-catheterize. Now, it's just a part of my routine."

Insurance Coverage

Navigating insurance can be tricky, but we handle it for you. Many advanced catheters, like hydrophilic and closed system catheters, may be covered by insurance. Our team works with your insurance provider to minimize your out-of-pocket expenses.

Feel free to contact our insurance experts to find out what your health plan covers. This way, you can focus on your health without worrying about the financial details.

Exceptional Customer Service

We believe in providing not just products but a comprehensive service that addresses all your needs. Here’s what you can expect from us:

  • Rapid Delivery: Orders typically arrive within 48 hours of shipping.
  • Quality Products: We stock catheters from leading manufacturers.
  • Continuous Support: Our team is always available to answer your questions and provide assistance.

Your well-being is our top priority. At ProMed DME, we're committed to enhancing your quality of life with the right tools and support.

Next, we'll address some common questions about catheters for men to help you understand more about their use and benefits.


Choosing the right catheter for men is a crucial step in managing your health and comfort. It can significantly impact your daily life, from preventing infections to ensuring ease of use.

Decision Making

When it comes to selecting a catheter, consider your specific needs and medical conditions. Consulting with your healthcare provider is the first step. They can recommend the best type and size based on your situation. At ProMed DME, our team of experts is here to assist you in making an informed choice. We offer a variety of options, including intermittent, external, and indwelling catheters.

ProMed DME

At ProMed DME, we pride ourselves on providing top-quality products and exceptional customer service. We understand that each person's needs are unique, and we're dedicated to offering personalized support. Our external catheters are designed to meet high standards of comfort and hygiene.

  • Free Shipping: Enjoy prompt delivery with no additional cost.
  • Expert Support: Our knowledgeable team is always ready to help.
  • Insurance Assistance: We can assist you in navigating your insurance coverage.

Long-Term Health

Proper catheter care is vital for long-term health. Using the right catheter can help prevent complications such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) and ensure comfort. Regularly consulting with your healthcare provider and following hygiene practices are key to maintaining your well-being.

At ProMed DME, your health and comfort are our priorities. We're here to support you every step of the way. Explore our range of products and discover how we can help you achieve optimal health.

Thank you for considering ProMed DME as your trusted partner in catheter care. Together, we can navigate your healthcare needs and support your journey toward optimal health. Visit our external catheters page to learn more and get started.

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