Urethral Stricture

  • Medical Author: Pamela I. Ellsworth, MD
  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Urethral Stricture Symptom

Urinary Retention

Symptoms of urinary retention include the inability to urinate, which occurs when an individual is not fully able to empty his or her bladder, despite having the urge to urinate. Urinary retention may be an acute (happening suddenly) or longstanding (chronic) problem in both men or women and can be associated with other bladder problems or abnormalities within the pelvis. Urinary retention is more common in men than women and increases in frequency as men age. Any condition that results in a physical blockage of the urethra (the tube through which urine exits the bladder) can result in the inability to urinate.

Urethral stricture facts

  • Urethral stricture is much more common in men than in women. In fact, urethral stricture is rare in women.
  • Congenital urethral strictures (present at birth) are also considered rare.
  • Any inflammation of the urethra resulting from injury, trauma, previous surgery, or infection can cause urethral stricture.
  • Symptoms of urethral stricture can range from no symptoms at all to complete urinary retention.
  • Imaging studies and endoscopic evaluations are important tools in the diagnosis of urethral stricture.
  • Medications generally play no role, and surgical procedures remain the mainstay of treatment for symptomatic urethral stricture.
  • The overall prognosis for urethral stricture is good.

What is the urethra?

The urethra is the opening that allows urine to leave the bladder. In men, the urethra is a thin tube-like structure that starts from the lower opening of the bladder and traverses the entire length of the penis. In women, it is a shorter opening coming off the lower opening of bladder and is between 2.5 to 4 centimeters (cm) in length.

The urethra has a sphincter that is normally closed to keep urine inside the bladder. When the bladder fills with urine, there are both voluntary and involuntary controls to open the urethral sphincter to allow urine to come out.

Picture of the urethra
Picture of the urethra

The urethra is subdivided into several segments:

  1. The urethral meatus, which is the opening at the tip of the penis
  2. The fossa navicularis, which is the urethra located proximal to the urethral meatus and within the glans, head of the penis
  3. The penile urethra, which is the urethra that goes from the urethral meatus to the distal edge of the muscle, the bulbocavernosus muscle
  4. The bulbar urethra, which goes from the beginning of the proximal urethra back to the end of the membranous urethra
  5. The membranous urethra is a short area of the urethra that extends from the proximal bulbar urethra to the distal verumontanum (the verumontanum is a small mound in the urethra where the ejaculatory ducts open into and sperm enters the urethra).
  6. The prostatic urethra is the urethra that goes from the end of the bladder neck (outlet of the bladder) to the verumontanum.
  7. The bladder neck, the outlet of the bladder
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/29/2016

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