Urinary retention is the inability to empty your bladder of urine. Anyone can experience urinary retention. It’s 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. People of all ages and both sexes can have nerve disease or nerve damage that may interfere with bladder function.
Urinary retention can be caused by an obstruction in the urinary tract or by nerve problems that interfere with signals between the brain and the bladder.
If your nerves aren’t working properly, the brain may not get the message that the bladder is full.
A weak bladder muscle can also cause retention. Some common underlying causes include: nerve disorder, prostate enlargement (BPH), infection, surgery, medication, bladder stone, etc.
Symptoms and Severity
With chronic urinary retention, you may be able to urinate, but you have trouble starting a stream or emptying your bladder completely. You may feel a need to urinate more frequently but have little success when you get to the bathroom. Likewise you may feel you still have to go after you’ve finished urinating. Chronic urinary retention may not seem life threatening, but it can lead to serious problems and should also receive attention from Dr. Alarcon. With acute urinary retention, you can’t urinate at all, even though you have a full bladder. Typically, acute urinary retention causes great discomfort, and even pain. You feel an urgent need to urinate but you simply can’t. The lower belly is bloated. Acute urinary retention is a medical emergency requiring prompt action.
Go directly to the hospital if you are have an emergency. If not, make an appointment with Dr. Alarcon and his clinical team will perform a full exam. Common tests include a history and physical, urinalysis (urine sample), blood test, bladder scan, and cystoscopy.
Additionally, Dr. Alarcon may perform an ultrasound test or other urodynamic tests at his office. Alarcon Urology Center has all the necessary equipment to reach an accurate and conclusive diagnosis.
With acute urinary retention, treatment usually includes the insertion of a catheter through the urethra to drain the bladder. This initial treatment relieves the immediate distress of a full bladder and prevents permanent bladder damage. Long-term treatment will depend on the underlying cause.
If you have chronic urinary retention, or if acute retention appears to become chronic, further treatment will be necessary. You may need to continue using a catheter if other options do not work for you. You may be taught to catheterize yourself as needed. You will need to learn sterile technique to avoid urinary tract infections.