Urinary retention is a condition in which the bladder is unable to empty completely or even partially in some cases. In other words, if you are suffering from urinary retention, it means you are unable to either start urination or fully empty your bladder.
- A life-threatening medical emergency, acute urinary retention lasts only a short time. Despite having a full bladder, people with acute urinary retention find problems urinating at all and thus experience great discomfort or pain.
- A long-lasting condition, chronic urinary retention makes it difficult for people to completely empty their bladder. This problem often leads to urinary incontinence, resulting in a loss of bladder control, or a urinary tract infection.
Urinary Retention Symptoms
The urinary tract is the drainage system in the body that is responsible for removing urine. Ureters, kidneys, and bladder play an important role in removing urine from the body. All of these organs need to function together for the normal urinary cycle to occur. If you have any problems with these organs, you may start to experience the following symptoms:
- Problem in starting to urinate
- Problems in complete emptying of the bladder
- Inability to feel when you have a full bladder
- Post-micturition dribbling or loss of small amounts of urine throughout the day
- Weak stream of urine
- Lack of urge to urinate
- Increased abdominal pressure
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty pushing urine out of the bladder
- Mild discomfort in the urinary tract and lower abdomen
- A feeling of incomplete emptying despite micturition
What Causes Urinary Retention?
The most common causes of urinary retention include:
- Weak bladder muscles – Weakened muscles could interfere with nerve signals between the bladder and brain and may not contract strongly enough for complete emptying of the bladder, resulting in urinary retention.
- Nerve problems – Any problem with nerves could mean that the brain is not able to receive the message that the bladder needs to empty.
- Obstruction of urethra – Any obstruction of the urethra will not allow the free flow of urine through the urinary tract. Constipation, urinary tract stones, tumor or cancerous growth, and cystocele are some of the conditions can cause an obstruction.
- Some over-the-counter cold and allergy drugs that contain decongestants can cause urinary retention problems in men with prostate enlargement.
How is Urinary Retention Diagnosed?
A doctor requires comprehensive medical history of a patient for the diagnosis. A physical exam of the patient, computerized tomography scans, postvoid residual measurement, electromyography, or urodynamic tests may be needed to determine the cause of urinary retention.
Urinary Retention Treatment
A doctor treats urinary retention with
- Bladder drainage – The insertion of a catheter from the urethra into the bladder to drain urine and relieve immediate distress caused by a full bladder.
- Urethral dilation – The procedure involves inserting wider tubes into the urethra to widen the stricture – which is the narrowing of the urethra due to an infection or injury.
- Urethral stents – This involves insertion of a stent into the urethra. The artificial tube expands like a spring and widens the urethra.
- Prostate medications – The doctor may prescribe over-the-counter drugs shrink the prostate, relax the bladder muscles, and relieve urinary retention symptoms.
- Surgery – Prostate surgery, internal urethrotomy, cystocele, and tumor or cancer surgery may be performed to reduce urethral retention and obstruction.