4 Common Side Effects of External Catheters

External catheters, or urine collection devices, are typically used by men to manage urinary incontinence. These attach to the outside of the penile area and allow for urine to escape into a bag that is typically strapped to an individual or the side of a bed.

While external catheters make getting around more convenient for individuals suffering from urinary incontinence, they do come along with some common side effects. These include skin rashes, urinary tract infections, leakage around the seal, and bladder spasms. Let’s take a closer look at each of these side effects.

Skin Rash

Skin rashes around the penile area are the most common side effect of using external catheters. There are a few reasons these rashes develop. The catheter is the wrong size, has been on for an extended period of time, uses acrylic adhesives, or has slight leakage causing moisture on the surface of the skin.

Urinary Tract Infections

Also referred to as UTIs, these infections are common in individuals that wear their external catheters for extended periods of time. Symptoms of urinary tract infections include cloudy urine color, strong or foul odor, blood in the urine, bladder spasms, urine leakage, and the constant urge to urinate.

Urine Leakage

As discussed earlier, if you have the wrong diameter catheter or wear it for longer than the seal can properly protect, you may notice slight urine leakage. This will provide moisture for the skin which can lead to painful skin rashes.

Bladder Spasms

Sudden involuntary squeezing of the bladder muscles, also called bladder spasms, do occur to people using both internal and external catheters. These spasms can be quite painful and lead to an involuntary leakage of urine as the contractions force it out. Occasionally these spasm can loosen the seal of an external catheter, leading to urine leakage onto the skin.

Preventative Measures

There are certain preventative measures you can take to better avoid these common side effects. While these aren’t guaranteed to help you avoid the side effects mentioned above, they will greatly reduce your risk of experiencing them.

You want to first make sure that you have the right size catheter. A diameter that is too small can cause constriction of the area and a diameter that is too big can allow for moisture leakage onto the skin. Avoid using condom catheters that use acrylic adhesives as this could irritate the skin. Be sure to test wearing your catheter for different lengths of time, while consistently checking for leakage. This will help you discover the amount of time you can wear your catheter before it needs to be changed.