Facts About Urinary Retention

Urinary retention is the inability to empty the bladder. Urinary retention can be acute or chronic. Acute urinary retention is a medical emergency.

Urinary retention is most common in men in their 50s and 60s because of prostate enlargement. A woman may experience urinary retention if her bladder sags or moves out of the normal position (cystocele) or pulled out of position by a sagging of the lower part of the colon (rectocele).

Causes of urinary retention include an obstruction in the urinary tract such as an enlarged prostate or bladder stones, infections that cause swelling or irritation, nerve problems that interfere with signals between the brain and the bladder, medications, constipation, urethral stricture, or a weak bladder muscle.

Symptoms of acute urinary retention are severe discomfort and pain, an urgent need to urinate but you simply can’t, and bloated lower belly. Chronic urinary retention symptoms are mild but constant discomfort, difficulty starting a stream of urine, weak flow of urine, needing to go frequently, or feeling you still need to go after you’ve finished.

Complications include urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder damage, and chronic kidney disease.
Tests to diagnose urinary retention include taking a urine sample, bladder scan, cystoscopy, X-ray and CT scan, blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), prostate fluid sample test, and urodynamic tests to measure the bladder’s ability to empty steadily and completely.

Treatment for urinary retention includes catheterization, treating prostate enlargement, and surgery.
Urinary retention is the inability to empty the bladder. With chronic urinary retention, you may be able to urinate, but you have trouble starting a stream or emptying your bladder completely. You may urinate frequently; you may feel an urgent need to urinate but have little success when you get to the toilet; or you may feel you still have to go after you’ve finished urinating. With acute urinary retention, you can’t urinate at all, even though you have a full bladder. Acute urinary retention is a medical emergency requiring prompt action. Chronic urinary retention may not seem life threatening, but it can lead to serious problems and should also receive attention from a health professional.

Anyone can experience urinary retention, but it is 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, a condition called cystocele. The bladder can also sag or be pulled out of position by a sagging of the lower part of the colon, a condition called rectocele. Some people have urinary retention from rectoceles. People of all ages and both sexes can have nerve disease or nerve damage that interferes with bladder function.

What is urinary retention?
Urinary retention is the inability to empty the bladder completely. Urinary retention can be acute or chronic. Acute urinary retention happens suddenly and lasts only a short time. People with acute urinary retention cannot urinate at all, even though they have a full bladder. Acute urinary retention, a potentially life-threatening medical condition, requires immediate emergency treatment. Acute urinary retention can cause great discomfort or pain.

Chronic urinary retention can be a long-lasting medical condition. People with chronic urinary retention can urinate. However, they do not completely empty all of the urine from their bladders. Often people are not even aware they have this condition until they develop another problem, such as urinary incontinence — loss of bladder control, resulting in the accidental loss of urine — or a urinary tract infection (UTI), an illness caused by harmful bacteria growing in the urinary tract.

What is the urinary tract and how does it work?

The urinary tract is the body’s drainage system for removing urine, which is composed of wastes and extra fluid. In order for normal urination to occur, all body parts in the urinary tract need to work together in the correct order.

Kidneys. The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They are located just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine. Every day, the kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood to produce about 1 to 2 quarts of urine. The kidneys work around the clock; a person does not control what they do.

Ureters. Ureters are the thin tubes of muscle — one on each side of the bladder — that carry urine from each of the kidneys to the bladder.

Bladder. The bladder, located in the pelvis between the pelvic bones, is a hollow, muscular, balloon-shaped organ that expands as it fills with urine. Although a person does not control kidney function, a person does control when the bladder empties. Bladder emptying is known as urination. The bladder stores urine until the person finds an appropriate time and place to urinate. A normal bladder acts like a reservoir and can hold 1.5 to 2 cups of urine. How often a person needs to urinate depends on how quickly the kidneys produce the urine that fills the bladder. The muscles of the bladder wall remain relaxed while the bladder fills with urine. As the bladder fills to capacity, signals sent to the brain tell a person to find a toilet soon. During urination, the bladder empties through the urethra, located at the bottom of the bladder. Read More

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