We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Urinary Retention?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Urinary retention occurs when a person cannot urinate and needs to, or can only urinate a small amount but isn’t able to fully remove urine from the bladder. This condition may either be classed as chronic or acute, where in chronic conditions the person experiences this to smaller or lesser degree on a fairly constant basis. It has a variety of causes and treatment depends on cause. In a number of cases, urinary retention can be fully cured, but sometimes it can only be palliated through measures that have to be employed on a constant basis to empty the bladder.

The symptoms of urinary retention may be different depending upon whether the condition is acute or chronic. Acute retention is very serious and it means there is no way to urinate. A person simply can’t no matter how much they might try.

This form of the condition is considered extremely serious and medically urgent because continued filling of the bladder can lead to permanent damage. It may occur as a result of some damage to the bladder or structures that surround it, and sometimes that damage is temporary. For instance, a pregnant woman that has an epidural during labor frequently experiences acute retention; to address this, she might have a urine catheter to remove the urine and prevent bladder injury.

In most cases, standard treatment for acute retention is to first use a urine catheter to empty the bladder. Depending on underlying causes, this could be the only treatment, or additional treatments might be required. If damage to the bladder or the ability to urinate is impaired for a long period of time, regular catheterization could be necessary.

Employing a cath for chronic urinary retention isn’t always needed. In this condition, risk of bladder damage over time can exist too, but people are able to excrete some urine. Very frequently, underlying condition for chronic forms is enlargement of the prostate gland; this is the most common cause and is exclusive to men. Treatment might turn to shrinking the prostate gland when this is the case.

Other causes of chronic urinary retention include urinary tract infection, weakness in the bladder and vagina or pelvic floor, problems with the urethra that cause it to narrow, blockage of the urethra with bladder stones, and certain medications. It’s easy to see how different treatment might be depending on cause. A urinary tract infection could necessitate giving antibiotics, bladder stones might need to be dissolved with medication or surgically removed, and some medications like antihistamines or those used for urinary incontinence could need to be discontinued.

More invasive measures could be needed if the pelvic floor weakens enough to allow the bladder to push into the vagina, and surgery to repair the muscles is not uncommon. Some men have urethral stricture, which results in a much narrower pathway for passing urine. Balloon catheter might open this stricture or surgical measures could be required to create a better opening.

Sometimes damage to the nerves is so significant that people require regular urinary catheterization. Training on how to properly perform this under clean or sterile conditions is extremely valuable to prevent infection. Regular caths have the tendency to cause much higher risk of infection in the urinary tract, which might lead to an acute case of urinary retention.

It should also be noted that even if chronic urinary retention is less immediately urgent than acute forms, it still requires medical treatment. Inability to go some of the time or empty the bladder fully runs risk of constant infection and great damage to the bladder that could make the problem irreparable. Should this condition arise, it should be brought to the attention of a doctor right away, so cause can be diagnosed and treatment can begin.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.