Urinary retention occurs when the bladder does not empty completely despite being full. A person with urinary retention often feels that they have to urinate constantly. There are two types of urinary retention: acute and chronic.
Urinary retention is observed in men as well as women. However, it is more common in older men. It is recommended to diagnose and treat this disorder as early as possible. Otherwise, it may cause kidney disorders, high blood pressure, and leg swelling or edema. Read on to know more about the symptoms and causes of urinary retention.
The symptoms depend on whether a person has acute urinary retention or chronic urinary retention. Acute urinary retention is a medical emergency and can be life-threatening. A person will feel the urgent need to urinate but will be unable to do so. Immediate medical care is recommended in such cases to release the excessive build-up of urine.
Chronic urinary retention happens over a period of time. A person is able to urinate, but the bladder is not completely emptied. There are no initial symptoms, so there is no awareness that chronic urinary retention is building up. However, it does lead to a lot of complications. Some of the common signs of chronic urinary retention include the following symptoms:
- There is a frequent need to urinate, at least eight or more times.
- It is difficult to start the urine stream.
- The urine stream is weak, or it starts and stops immediately.
- There is a feeling that one needs to urinate right after one has finished urinating.
- One has to get up multiple times in the night to urinate.
- There is urine leakage from the bladder through the day.
- One has urge incontinence or needs to urinate immediately. This is often followed by their inability to stop themselves from urinating.
- One does not know for sure whether their bladder is full.
- There is a constant feeling of mild discomfort. One may feel full in their pelvis or lower abdomen.
Causes of urinary retention
The bladder and the urethra make up the lower urinary tract. In men, the prostate is also a part of the urinary tract. The tract also comprises multiple muscles and nerves. Urinary retention can occur due to a problem in any part of the urinary tract. A problem can occur due to multiple factors ranging from obstruction in the bladder to the use of certain medications, nerve problems, infection, inflammation, trauma, or surgery.
- Obstruction: An obstruction that blocks the flow of urine from the bladder can lead to chronic or acute urinary retention. If there is a sudden complete obstruction, it causes acute urinary retention. Chronic retention is caused by a progressive and partial obstruction. Obstruction can be caused due to urinary tract stones, urethral stricture, the formation of a benign or cancerous mass in the intestines or pelvis, severe constipation, a blood clot in the bladder, a foreign object in the urethra, or severe inflammation of the urethra.
- Medication: Taking certain medications may weaken the bladder’s ability to release urine. The urinary tract may also contract to make it difficult for the urine to flow out of the body. Some of the common medications that may lead to urinary retention include amphetamines, antihistamines, Parkinson’s medications, urinary tract incontinence, muscle relaxants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, pseudoephedrine, antidepressants, and opioid medications.
- Nerve problems: To urinate, it is essential for signals from the brain to go through the spine and surrounding nerves to the bladder and back again. If any of these nerve signals do not work, it may lead to urinary retention. A few health complications that can lead to nerve problems are childbirth, stroke, spine injury, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and long-term diabetes.