Urinary retention is a fairly common condition seen in urology. Urinary retention is the inability to empty the bladder. This condition can be very painful if the bladder is full and unable to empty. Many patients require catheter insertion in the clinic or emergency room until it is corrected or resolves spontaneously. This condition can occur in both men and women although it is more common in men.


Blockage – In men, the urethra may be constricted by an enlarged prostate, a common condition of men over 50. In women, blockage can be caused by certain types of pelvic prolapse, including Cystocele (when the bladder falls into the vagina) and Rectocele (when the rectum/large intestine falls forward on the vagina). Other blockage reasons for men and women include urethral stricture and urinary stones)

Infection / Swelling – In men, prostatitis (prostate infection), can cause swelling that blocks the free flow of urine. Urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases can also cause swelling that leads to urinary retention.

Nerve Problems – Urinary retention could be caused by a problem with the nerves that control the bladder. If the nerves are damaged, it can cause a breakdown in the signals between the brain and bladder. 



  • A complete inability to pass urine 
  • A painful urge to urinate 
  • Pain or swelling in your lower abdomen 



  • Frequent urination ( more than 8 times per day)
  • Trouble starting urination 
  • Weak or intermittent urination stream 
  • A feeling of needing to urinate after finishing urination 



The treatments for this problem very depending on the etiology. Sometimes the only treatment needed is the temporary use of catheters to assist with emptying the bladder allowing it time to regain compliance and rest. Some patients may require surgical correction of the offending agent to resolve their urinary retention. Other patients may require the long term use of catheters to assist with emptying their bladder.