Urinary retention facts*
*Urinary retention facts by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
- Urinary retention is the inability to empty the bladder. Urinary retention can be acute or chronic. Acute urinary retention is a medical emergency.
- Urinary retention is most common in men in their 50s and 60s because of prostate enlargement. A woman may experience urinary retention if her bladder sags or moves out of the normal position (cystocele) or pulled out of position by a sagging of the lower part of the colon (rectocele).
- Causes of urinary retention include an obstruction in the urinary tract such as an enlarged prostate or bladder stones, infections that cause swelling or irritation, nerve problems that interfere with signals between the brain and the bladder, medications, constipation, urethral stricture, or a weak bladder muscle.
- Symptoms of acute urinary retention are severe discomfort and pain, an urgent need to urinate but you simply can't, and bloated lower belly. Chronic urinary retention symptoms are mild but constant discomfort, difficulty starting a stream of urine, weak flow of urine, needing to go frequently, or feeling you still need to go after you've finished.
- Complications include urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder damage, and chronic kidney disease.
- Tests to diagnose urinary retention include taking a urine sample, bladder scan, cystoscopy, X-ray and CT scan, blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), prostate fluid sample test, and urodynamic tests to measure the bladder's ability to empty steadily and completely.
- Treatment for urinary retention includes catheterization, treating prostate enlargement, and surgery.
Urinary retention is the inability to empty the bladder. With chronic urinary retention, you may be able to urinate, but you have trouble starting a stream or emptying your bladder completely. You may urinate frequently; you may feel an urgent need to urinate but have little success when you get to the toilet; or you may feel you still have to go after you've finished urinating. With acute urinary retention, you can't urinate at all, even though you have a full bladder. Acute urinary retention is a medical emergency requiring prompt action. Chronic urinary retention may not seem life threatening, but it can lead to serious problems and should also receive attention from a health professional.
Male and female urinary tracts.
Anyone can experience urinary retention, but it is most common in men in their fifties and sixties because of prostate enlargement. A woman may experience urinary retention if her bladder sags or moves out of the normal position, a condition called cystocele. The bladder can also sag or be pulled out of position by a sagging of the lower part of the colon, a condition called rectocele. Some people have urinary retention from rectoceles. People of all ages and both sexes can have nerve disease or nerve damage that interferes with bladder function.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/13/2014
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