What is Urinary Retention?



Urinary retention is a term used for a scenario when you have trouble emptying your bladder, either partially or fully. This can cause a wide range of problems which vary from slightly discomforting to life-threatening.

What Causes Urinary Retention? The cause of urinary retention is usually a blockage or nerve issue that prevents your bladder from emptying by passing urine through the urethra naturally. There are many reasons that this may occur:

  • Medication: Certain antihistamines, antispasmodics, and antidepressants can cause the bladder muscles to contract in a way that blocks the flow of urine.

  • An enlarged prostate: This is the most common cause of urinary retention in men. An enlarged prostate presses on the urethra which can block the flow of urine.

  • Cystocele or rectocele: This is when a woman’s bladder or rectum sags. Stricture: A narrowing of the urethra caused by a previous injury or surgery.

  • Urinary stones: Hard protein masses that can form in the urinary tract or bladder.

  • Infection: A urinary tract infection or a sexually transmitted disease can cause swelling of the urethra.

  • Nerve damage: Nerve damage from a stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis,trauma to the spine or pelvis, or pressure on the spinal cord from tumors can make it difficult for the bladder or urethra to receive messages from the brain.

  • Childbirth: Childbirth can sometimes damage the nerve pathways that make it possible to urinate.

  • Surgery: Procedures such as hip replacements or pelvic surgeries can causeurinary retention.

Options for Managing Urinary Retention The management of urinary retention depends heavily on the cause. First things first, if someone believes they are experiencing urinary retention then they should talk to their doctor. There are many ways to diagnose this condition, but someone must be diagnosed before the symptoms can be managed. Once diagnosed, the doctor will likely suggest one of the following treatment methods:

If due to medication: The doctor may make adjustments to medication.

If due to an enlarged prostate: The doctor may suggest medication to shrink the prostate or surgery to remove it altogether.

If due to having cystocele or rectocele: In moderate cases, exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor or inserting a ring called a vaginal pessary that supports the bladder could fix the issue. If past menopause, the doctor may prescribe estrogen therapy. In more severe cases, surgery may be required.

If due to having a stricture: A catheter and a balloon may be used to open the urethra. In some cases,strictures require surgery or a stent to be inserted to prop open the urethra.

If due to having urinary stones: There are medications and procedures that can shrink urinary stones so they can be passed more easily.

If due to having nerve damage: Depending on the severity, a doctor will likely demonstrate how to pass urine using a catheter.

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