Urinary Retention

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What are the complications of urinary retention and its treatments?

Complications of urinary retention and its treatments may include

  • UTIs
  • bladder damage
  • kidney damage
  • urinary incontinence after prostate, tumor, or cancer surgery

UTIs. Urine is normally sterile, and the normal flow of urine usually prevents bacteria from infecting the urinary tract. With urinary retention, the abnormal urine flow gives bacteria at the opening of the urethra a chance to infect the urinary tract.

Bladder damage. If the bladder becomes stretched too far or for long periods, the muscles may be permanently damaged and lose their ability to contract.

Kidney damage. In some people, urinary retention causes urine to flow backward into the kidneys. This backward flow, called reflux, may damage or scar the kidneys.

Urinary incontinence after prostate, tumor, or cancer surgery. Transurethral surgery to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia may result in urinary incontinence in some men. This problem is often temporary. Most men recover their bladder control in a few weeks or months after surgery. Surgery to remove tumors or cancerous tissue in the bladder, prostate, or urethra may also result in urinary incontinence.

How can urinary retention be prevented?

People can prevent urinary retention before it occurs by treating some of the potential causes. For example, men with benign prostatic hyperplasia should take prostate medications as prescribed by their health care provider. Men with benign prostatic hyperplasia should avoid medications associated with urinary retention, such as over-the-counter cold and allergy medications that contain decongestants. Women with mild cystocele or rectocele may prevent urinary retention by doing exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles. In most cases, dietary and lifestyle changes will help prevent urinary retention caused by constipation. People whose constipation continues should see a health care provider.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/13/2014

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