Bladder Retention Problems

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Bladder Retention Problems
("urinary system" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: striatic (hobvias sudoneighm) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Bladder retention problems or incontinence can be caused by a variety of issues. Urinary retention can cause medical emergencies and can lead to serious problems. Symptoms include not being able to urinate at all or having an urgent feeling like you still need to. You may experience the frequent urge to urinate then not be able to empty your bladder.

Bladder Retention Problems
("urinary system" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: striatic (hobvias sudoneighm) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)


Bladder retention symptoms usually are more common in men in their 50s and 60s because of enlargement of the prostate. In women the bladder suspends, sags or is moved out of position. This is called cystocele. Symptoms are the frequent urge to urinate, not being able to finish, not being able to urinate at all even with a full bladder.

Common Causes

Common causes for bladder retention are injury to the pelvis, heavy metal poisoning, multiple sclerosis, stroke, brain or spinal cord injury, diabetes, infection to the brain or spinal cord and vaginal childbirth. Temporary bladder retention after surgery may occur but will most often subside as the anaesthesia wears off.

Infections due to urinary tract infections can cause the urethra to become inflamed and swell shut. Bladder stones can become lodged in the urethra and block the opening.

Medications such as antihistamines, anticholinergics or tricyclic antidepressants can contribute to bladder retention or incontinence.

Diagnostic Tests

A cystoscopy or ureteroscopy uses a long thin instrument with a light on the end of it. This will magnify the inner lining of the urethra and allow the doctor to see inside. Bladder scan, X-ray or CAT scan are often used to check for obstructions and/or bladder stones.The physical examination of the lower abdomen may result in the physician being able to feel the distended bladder. A physician will be looking for bladder stones or other obstructions. The physician will also ask for a history of symptoms.

Possible Treatments

Catheterisation, medication or surgery are three possible treatments for bladder retention problems. Inserting a catheter through the urethra will drain the bladder. In some chronic cases of bladder retention you may be taught to catheterise yourself.

The pelvic organs and the vagina are separated by a wall of tissue called the fascia. This occurrence is often the cause of a bladder or rectum falling. Surgery may be performed to lift the bladder or rectum that has fallen. These procedures are called cystocele and rectocele repair.

In men with urethral stricture, a physician can perform dilation. A tube is inserted in the urethra and dilates. Increasingly bigger tubes are used as the procedure progresses. Another common method that is used is a small balloon that is inserted inside the urethra using the end of the catheter.


Complications can occur if the good hygiene practices aren't followed, because bacteria can be a frequent problem with catheters.

Urinary tract infections, bladder damage, and chronic kidney disease can occur if bladder retention problems are not addressed.

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