Urinary Retention

The inability to empty the bladder completely is known as urinary retention. This can happen suddenly and be quite uncomfortable, or in some patients it happens slowly over a period of years and they may not notice any symptoms. If this happens suddenly and you cannot urinate at all, it is an emergent condition and you should seek medical help immediately.


Chronic urinary retention often goes unnoticed until someone develops other symptoms such as an infection or urinary incontinence (leaking urine). People with chronic retention can often empty some but not all of the urine in their bladder.


Urinary retention can be the result of obstruction, a weak bladder muscle, nerve problems, or medications.


Obstruction in men is often due to BPH or more rarely may be due to a urethral stricture. In women, this may be due to kinking of the urethra from pelvic organ prolapse.


A weak bladder muscle can be due to age, muscle wasting diseases as well as over-stretching from chronic outlet obstruction.


Nerve problems such as diabetes, stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal or pelvic injury, commonly interrupt signaling between the brain and the muscle. This may cause a variety of problems including difficulty emptying or incontinence.


There are many medications that may cause urinary retention as well. One of the most common culprits are cold and allergy medications which may contain anticholinergics, antihistamines, or decongestants. Other drugs such as opiod pain medications, muscle relaxers, and anti-anxiety medications may also may also affect the bladder and cause poor emptying.


Questions about urinary retention?

Call us at 360-733-7687 for appointments.