What is urine retention?

Urine retention, or urinary retention, is a condition in which you are unable to voluntarily or completely empty your bladder. Your bladder is part of your urinary tract. Your urinary tract consists of your kidneys, two ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder (an expandable organ that stores urine), and the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of your body).

There are also many muscles and nerves that help your urinary tract function properly. Urinary retention can be caused by problems with your urinary tract itself or by problems with the muscles and nerves that help control your urinary tract. Urinary retention can be acute and arise suddenly, or it can be chronic and develop slowly with time.

In chronic urinary retention, you are generally able to urinate to some degree, but it may be complicated by problems with starting and stopping, dribbling, frequent or urgent urination with little result, and a feeling of incomplete emptying of the bladder. In contrast, acute urinary retention is the complete inability to urinate despite having a full bladder. Acute urinary retention is a life-threatening condition and should be treated as a medical emergency.

Urine retention can affect both males and females of all ages. However, it occurs most often in men who are in their 50s and 60s, and the incidence increases with age. Men in this age group often suffer from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlargement of the prostate. The prostate surrounds the urethra and can obstruct or squeeze the urethra when it is enlarged, causing urinary retention. Other causes of urinary retention include infections, disorders of the bladder, injury or trauma, vaginal childbirth, side effects of certain medications, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and nerve damage.

Treatment of urine retention depends of the type, severity and underlying cause of your condition. You can help minimize your symptoms and your risk of complications by following the treatment plan you and your healthcare professional design specifically for you.

Acute urinary retention is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as a sudden inability to urinate despite a full bladder, intense discomfort or pain in the abdomen or area above your pubic bone, and bloating in your lower abdomen or belly.

Chronic urinary retention can lead to potentially serious complications and should be evaluated by your healthcare provider. Seek prompt medical care if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of chronic urinary retention, such as frequent urination of small amounts of urine, weak stream of urine, or a feeling of incomplete emptying of the bladder.


SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of urine retention?

Chronic urine retention, or urinary retention, usually begins with mild symptoms that progressively worsen with time. In chronic urinary retention, you are usually able to urinate, but with some degree of difficulty. Symptoms of chronic urinary retention include:

  • Constant, mild bladder discomfort, which you can feel just above the pubic bone or lower abdomen
    Read more about urine retentionsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes urine retention?

Urinary retention can be caused by problems with the urinary tract itself or by problems with the muscles and nerves that help your urinary tract function properly. Your urinary tract consists of your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.

Nerves in your urinary tract tell your brain when your bladder is full of urine. Nerves from your brain then tell your bladder muscle to contra... Read more about urine retentioncauses

TREATMENTS

How is urine retention treated?

Treatment of urinary retention varies depending on the cause, severity, and other factors. Acute urinary retention is a potentially life-threatening condition and is treated with immediate catheterization to drain the bladder. Underlying causes of acute urinary retention can then be addressed.

Treatment of chronic urinary retention may include:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 7, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Kidneys and the Urinary System


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