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Last Updated: Apr 05, 2024

Urinary Retention: Know Its Causes and Management!

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Dr. Saurabh MishraUrologist • 24 Years Exp.MBBS, MS, MCh Urology
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An individual's inability to empty the bladder, completely, through urination is known as urinary retention. People of all age groups and genders suffer from urinary retention. However, it is more common in 50- or 60-year-old men. The causes vary according to the types of urinary retention.

  1. Acute urinary retention: It is a life-threatening medical condition and a person can be affected quite suddenly. The affected person goes through great discomfort and pain as it prevents one from urinating, though the bladder is full. This severe medical condition requires immediate emergency treatment. Inability to urinate, painful and urgent need to urinate, severe pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen and bloating of the lower abdomen are the symptoms of acute urinary retention.
  2. Chronic urinary retention: A patient is able to urinate but not empty the bladder completely if affected by the chronic type. Higher urinary frequency, increased abdominal pressure, inability to feel when the bladder is full, and the need to urinate after urination are some of the symptoms of chronic urinary retention.

The causes behind the two types of urinary retention are different.

Acute/Obstructive type:

Any type of blockage restricts urine to flow through the urinary tract. The reasons behind this are:

  • Enlarged prostate
  • Certain tumours or cancers
  • Urethral Stricture
  • Constipation
  • Kidney or bladder stones


Improper functioning of nerves and weakened bladder muscles may lead to this condition. The reasons behind this are:

  • Stroke
  • Childbirth
  • Pelvic injury or trauma
  • Nerve diseases
  • Impaired nerve or muscle function
  • Brain or spinal cord injury

There are various methods of treating urinary retention at home though they are all limited care measures. Sitting in a bathtub filled with warm water helps relax the pelvic floor muscles. Another method is self-stimulation for urination by using running water in the bathroom. Limited mobility might be one of the primary reasons for urinary retention. Hence, daily walking or exercising not only helps facilitate urination but also helps strengthen the pelvic muscles. Women suffering from mild Cystocele or Rectocele are advised to exercise every day to prevent urinary retention.

Certain food items are also unsuitable for people suffering from urinary retention. Therefore, the patient is recommended to avoid or reduce the intake of spicy food, citrus fruits, and foods containing artificial sweeteners. Also, the intake of packaged items needs to reduce to help cure urine retention. The physician often advises the patient on dietary changes along with some exercises that help strengthen the pelvic muscle and thus help cure the disease quickly. Moreover, adoption of a healthy lifestyle goes a long way to help treat urinary retention.

It is advised not to delay the visit to a doctor, once the patient knows that he/she is suffering from the symptoms of urinary retention. If it is a serious case, then surgery is the only cure. 


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