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Urinary Retention: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Last updated on : 10 Jun, 2024

Read time : 9 min

What is Urinary Retention?

If your bladder doesn’t empty when you urinate, you may be suffering from urinary retention. Your bladder is like a storage tank for urine. Urine is made up of waste that kidneys remove from the blood. Once the urine has been filtered, it goes to the bladder, where it stays until it’s time to evacuate the body through the urethra.

Urinary retention can be sudden or last for a long time. When you have acute urinary retention, it means that it happens quickly and could be serious. If you have chronic urinary retention, it means you’ve had the problem for a long time.

Also read: Urinary Tract Infections

What are the causes of urinary retention?

Urinary retention can result from a blockage that either completely or partially stops urine from passing out of your bladder or urethra. It can also occur from your bladder not being able to maintain enough force to completely empty itself. Here are the main causes of urinary retention:

  • Blockage in the passage of urine from the body. It is a condition in which the bladder and urethra are unable to empty urine properly. Chronic urine retention in men is most commonly caused by this.
  • Drugs prescribed for various ailments. It is also possible that certain drugs can cause this condition. Aspirin, opiates, antihistamines and tricyclic antidepressants can all adversely affect bladder muscles.
  • Urinary system and brain communication are disrupted by nerve problems.
  • Swelling and Infection
  • Surgery: Sedatives given before and during surgery can make it hard to urinate after surgery. Several surgeries, like hip replacement, spine surgery, rectal surgery for women with pelvic problems, and surgery for haemorrhoids, can lead to problems afterwards.
  • Prostate problems, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis, or cancer. Urethral or bladder compression due to extreme constipation.
  • Anaesthetic, which may temporarily damage the nerves and induce urine retention
  • Pressure on the bladder due to the cystocele, which causes the bladder to droop into the vagina
  • After childbirth or other physical traumas can cause pelvic floor muscle or nerve dysfunction are the causes of urinary retention in females.

Also Read: Symptoms of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

Urinary Retention Symptoms

The urinary retention symptoms depends on whether it is acute or chronic. Urinary retention that is acute occurs suddenly and passes quickly. Even if their bladders are full, people with acute urine retention are unable to urinate. Chronic urinary retention develops with time. Urinating is possible for those who have chronic urine retention, but they are unable to entirely empty their bladders. The following are the primary signs of both acute and chronic urine retention:

There is an Acute Urinary Retention or Chronic Urinary Retention, and symptoms will be different for both conditions.

Symptoms of Acute urinary retention are:

  • Inability to urinate
  • Painful and urgent need to urinate
  • Pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen 
  • Lower-abdominal swelling

Some signs of chronic urinary retention are:

  • Overactive Bladder: Frequency of urination, you tend to urinate eight or more times a day
  • Difficulties in starting urination
  • Weak or an interrupted urine flow
  • The feeling of incomplete urination 
  • Mild pain in the lower abdomen and in the urinary tract.
  • Problems evacuating the bladder
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Inability to feel when the bladder is full
  • Increased pressure in the abdomen
  • Efforts to push urine out of the bladder
  • Nocturia (waking up more than two times at night to urinate)

Diagnosis for Urinary Retention

1) History and physical exam:

Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and conduct a physical examination as part of the diagnosing process. He or she will also inquire about your medical history and the use of any medications you may be taking.

2) Ultrasound of the bladder:

To determine how much urine remains in your bladder after you urinate, an ultrasound of the bladder can be tested.

3) Cystoscopy:

One end of a small tube with a tiny camera attached is inserted into the urethra during a cystoscopy procedure. In this way, your urethra and bladder lining can be viewed by the doctor.

4) Urodynamic testing:

It’s possible to conduct urodynamic testing, in this procedure that uses a catheter to measure the bladder’s pressure. These tests can also evaluate the rate at which urine is passing through the body.

5) Electromyography:

Using electrodes and sensors, electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical activity of the muscles and nerves of the bladder and urethra.

Urinary Retention Treatment

The urinary retention treatment depends on its type and cause. Your doctor will first attempt to identify and address the underlying cause of your urine retention. But, if the retention worsens or persists, your doctor might have to use a catheter to remove the urine from your bladder. Your doctor may also prescribe certain medications such as medicines to improve the flow of urine and antibiotics or perform surgery if required. The detailed urinary retention treatment includes the following:

1) Catheterization

Bladder drainage is putting a thin, flexible tube (catheter) through your bladder to drain the pee. If you experience sudden acute urinary retention, you should use a catheter as quickly as feasible. If you have prolonged (chronic) urine retention, you may not need a catheter right away.

You may need a long-term catheter if the reason for your chronic urine retention cannot be cured or if the urine retention is causing harm to your bladder or kidneys.

2) Medication

Urinary retention treatment options for urine retention include a variety of medications.

  • The use of antibiotics to treat infections of the urinary tract, bladder or prostate
  • Drugs that ease tension in the prostate and sphincters increase the flow of urine.
  • Shrink the size of your prostate with medicine (if you have BPH)

3) Surgery

Surgery may be an option for treating urine retention, depending on the underlying cause. The following are examples of surgical procedures:

a) Urethral dilatation

A procedure called urethral dilatation is used to relieve urethral stricture by introducing ever-larger tubes into the urethra.

b) Urethral stents

An artificial tube, known as a stent, can also be inserted into the urethra to relieve urethral stricture. The stent maintains the urethra’s openness, allowing regular urine flow.

c) Prostate gland surgery

Prostate surgery may relieve urine retention in men who have had their prostate glands enlarged and are suffering from urinary retention symptoms.

d) Cystocele or rectocele repair

Women may require surgery to reposition their bladder or rectum once they’ve slid out of position.

4) Lifestyle changes

Here are some modifications you can make to your lifestyle. Urine retention can be alleviated with the help of:

  • You can influence when you urinate by drinking drinks at specific times of the day.
  • Practising pelvic floor exercises can help you better control your bladder.
  • Learn how to strengthen the muscles that regulate your bladder (for both people with a vagina and people with a penis)


Urine retention can be uncomfortable and painful. It can be excruciating and frightening when it develops abruptly and prevents a person from urinating.

Delaying therapy will only make the situation worse. There’s no need to be embarrassed or ashamed if you have urine retention.

A doctor can usually diagnose the issue. A physician may recommend urinary retention medication to treat the condition. Alternatively, they may prescribe a medication such as a Flotral Tablet, Flotral D Tablet, Veltam F Tablet Mr and Mirago Tablet to prevent the symptoms of it. 

After consulting with your doctor, you may also refer to our Truemeds Physicians, which provides free online consultations. You can purchase the required medications for sudden hair fall by using our online Truemeds portal. We provide you with home medicine delivery, a discount offer, and monthly savings on your medical bill. 

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What is the main cause of urinary retention?

The main cause of urine retention is obstructions or narrowings in the urinary tract, which can make it difficult or even impossible to urinate. Th other causes of urinary retention includes enlarged prostate, bladder outlet obstruction, pelvic organ prolapse, urinary tract stones, constipation, pelvic tumours, tight pelvic floor muscles, infections, or injuries to the pelvis, urethra, or penis.

What is the best treatment for urinary retention?

Your doctor will give you urinary retention treatment, if you are not able to urinate. They might have to drain your bladder using a catheter. It will reduce the pain and prevent your kidneys from being damaged. Your doctor may also also prescribe certain medicines to improve the flow of urine, mucle relaxers and antibiotics to improve urine flow and reduce infection.

Can you still pee with urinary retention?

While passing tiny amounts of urine is sometimes possible in cases of urinary retention, but it’s often difficult and incomplete. Urinary retention, however, might cause complete inability to urinate in severe situations.

Is urinary retention serious?

Urinary retention can be serious especially if treatment is not done on time. The complications due to urinary retention include kidney damage, bladder damage, urinary tract infections, and excruciating discomfort.

What foods prevent urinary retention?

Foods, like pear, banana, beans, potatoes, nuts, eggs, whole grains, can help avoid urinary retention symptoms and support healthy bladder function. 

Should I drink water if I have urinary retention?

Yes, staying hydrated is crucial if you have urinary retention. Drinking enough water can help avoid UTIs and maintain healthy bladder.

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Our healthcare experts have carefully reviewed and compiled the information presented here to ensure accuracy and trustworthiness. It is important to note that this information serves as a general overview of the topic and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, or cure any health problem. This page does not establish a doctor-patient relationship, nor does it replace the advice or consultation of a registered medical practitioner. We recommend seeking guidance from your registered medical practitioner for any questions or concerns regarding your medical condition.


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