Urinary Retention

MedicineNet - Urinary Retention

Symptom Checker: Symptoms & Signs Index

Medical Author:

The inability to urinate, or urinary retention, occurs when an individual is not fully able to empty his or her bladder, despite having the urge to urinate. Urinary retention may be an acute (happening suddenly) or longstanding (chronic) problem. Any condition that results in a physical blockage of the urethra (the tube through which urine exits the bladder) can result in the inability to urinate. Another cause of urinary retention is a defect or disruption in the function of the nerves that control urination. Some medications can cause or worsen urinary retention. Examples of these include general anesthetic agents, stimulants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed and others) and phenylpropanolamine (Dexatrim and others) and antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton).

Patients may experience the related symptoms of Urinary Incontinence, Bloating, and/or Abdominal Pain.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/6/2012

Health concern on your mind? Visit the Symptom Checker.

REFERENCES:

Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, U.S. National Institutes of Health, http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/UrinaryRetention/

Causes of Urinary Retention
    • Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH or enlarged prostate) is very common in men over 50 years of age. This noncancerous enlargement...learn more »
      In This Article
      Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia Article
      • Benign prostatic hyperplasia facts
      • What is the prostate gland?
      • How does the doctor detect prostate enlargement?
      • What is benign prostatic hyperplasia?
      • When does benign prostatic hyperplasia start?
      • What happens in BPH? What are symptoms of BPH?
      • How common is BPH? Are there any risk factors?
      • Is BPH a type of cancer?
      • Is BPH always treated?
      • How is BPH treated?
      • Are there other noncancerous prostate problems?
      • Can prostate problems be prevented?
    • Bladder Infection (Cystitis) Bladder infection is an infection of the bladder, usually caused by bacteria or, rarely, by Candida. Certain people, including...learn more »
      In This Article
      Bladder Infection (Cystitis) Article
      • What is a bladder infection?
      • What causes bladder infections?
      • What are some risk factors for bladder infection?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of a bladder infection in women?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of a bladder infection in men?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of a bladder infection in children?
      • How is a bladder infection diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for a bladder infection?
      • Are home remedies effective for a bladder infection?
      • How is a bladder infection during pregnancy treated?
      • What are potential complications of a bladder infection?
      • Can bladder infections be prevented?
      • What is the prognosis for a bladder infection?
    • Blood Clots Blood clots can occur in the venous and arterial vascular system. Blood clots can form in the heart, legs, arteries, veins,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Blood Clots Article
      • Blood clot facts
      • What are blood clots?
      • What causes blood clots?
      • What does a blood clot look like?
      • What are the risk factors for blood clots?
      • What types and conditions are caused by blood clots?
      • What are the symptoms of blood clots?
      • How are blood clots diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for blood clots?
      • What are the complications of blood clots?
      • How can blood clots be prevented?
    • Constipation Constipation is defined medically as fewer than three stools per week and severe constipation as less than one stool per week....learn more »
      In This Article
      Constipation Article
      • Constipation facts
      • What is constipation?
      • What causes constipation?
      • Medications that cause constipation
      • Other causes of constipation
      • How is constipation evaluated (diagnosed)?
      • What treatments are available for constipation?
      • Home remedies and OTC medications to treat constipation
      • Prescription drugs to treat constipation
      • Other treatments for constipation
      • What is the approach to the evaluation and treatment of constipation?
      • When should I seek medical care for chronic constipation?
      • What's new in the treatment of constipation?
    • Cystocele A cystocele is also known as a fallen or prolapsed bladder. Heavy lifting and straining may cause a cystocele, which causes urine...learn more »
      In This Article
      Cystocele Article
      • Cystocele facts*
      • What is a cystocele?
      • What causes a cystocele?
      • How is a cystocele diagnosed?
      • How is a cystocele treated?
      • Where can people find more information about prolapsed bladders?
    • Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes...learn more »
      In This Article
      Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) Article
      • Diabetes facts
      • What is diabetes?
      • What is the impact of diabetes?
      • What causes diabetes?
      • What are the different types of diabetes?
      • Type 1 diabetes
      • Type 2 diabetes
      • Other types of diabetes
      • What are diabetes symptoms?
      • How is diabetes diagnosed?
      • Why is blood sugar checked at home?
      • What are the acute complications of diabetes?
      • What are the chronic complications of diabetes?
      • What can be done to slow diabetes complications?
    • Interstitial Cystitis Interstitial cystitis (IC) is an inflammatory disease of the bladder that can cause ulceration and bleeding of the bladder's...learn more »
      In This Article
      Interstitial Cystitis Article
      • Interstitial cystitis facts
      • Overview of urinary function
      • What is interstitial cystitis (IC)?
      • What is the cause of interstitial cystitis?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of interstitial cystitis?
      • How is interstitial cystitis diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment of interstitial cystitis?
      • Are lifestyle modifications of value in managing interstitial cystitis?
      • Are there any special concerns about interstitial cystitis?
      • What is the prognosis (outcome) of interstitial cystitis?
    • Multiple Sclerosis Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder in which brain and spinal cord nerve cells become demyelinated. This damage results...learn more »
      In This Article
      Multiple Sclerosis Article
      • What is multiple sclerosis?
      • What causes multiple sclerosis?
      • What are the risk factors for developing multiple sclerosis?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis?
      • What are the different types of multiple sclerosis?
      • How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment of multiple sclerosis?
      • What is the prognosis and life expectancy with multiple sclerosis?
      • Can multiple sclerosis be prevented?
      • What research is being done on multiple sclerosis?
    • Prostate Cancer Prostate cancer is an uncontrolled (malignant) growth of cells in the prostate gland. Prostate cancer is the second leading...learn more »
      In This Article
      Prostate Cancer Article
      • Prostate cancer facts
      • What is the prostate gland?
      • What is prostate cancer?
      • Why is prostate cancer important?
      • What are prostate cancer causes?
      • What are prostate cancer symptoms and signs?
      • What are the screening tests for prostate cancer?
      • What are false positive elevations in the PSA test?
      • What refinements have been made in the PSA test?
      • How is prostate cancer diagnosed and graded?
      • How is the staging of prostate cancer done?
      • What are the treatment options for prostate cancer?
      • What about prostate cancer surgery?
      • What about radiation therapy for prostate cancer?
      • What about hormonal treatment for prostate cancer?
      • What is cryotherapy for prostate cancer?
      • What is HIFU for prostate cancer?
      • What is chemotherapy for prostate cancer?
      • What are the differences between hormonal treatment and chemotherapy?
      • What about herbal or other alternative medicine treatments for prostate cancer?
      • What is active surveillance for prostate cancer?
      • Can prostate cancer be prevented?
      • What will be the future treatments for prostate cancer?
      • Controversy in prostate cancer today
    • Prostatitis (Inflammation of the Prostate Gland) Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland. Causes of prostatitis include STDs, bacteria from urinary tract infections...learn more »
      In This Article
      Prostatitis (Inflammation of the Prostate Gland) Article
      • Prostatitis facts
      • Prostatitis definition
      • What causes prostatitis?
      • What are the risk factors for prostatitis?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of prostatitis?
      • When should I see my doctor for prostatitis?
      • How is the diagnosis of prostatitis made?
      • What is the treatment for prostatitis?
      • What are the complications of prostatitis?
      • What is the prognosis for prostatitis?
      • Prostatitis conclusion
    • Stroke A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding...learn more »
      In This Article
      Stroke Article
      • Stroke facts
      • What is a stroke?
      • What are the different types of stroke?
      • What are the warning signs of a stroke?
      • What are the symptoms of a stroke?
      • How is a stroke diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for stroke?
      • What is the prognosis for stroke?
      • Is recovery after a stroke possible?
      • What is stroke rehabilitation?
      • Can strokes be prevented?
    • Urethral Stricture A urethral stricture, or narrowing of the urethra, may cause decreased urine output. Symptoms include painful urination, urinary...learn more »
      In This Article
      Urethral Stricture Article
      • Urethral stricture facts
      • What is the urethral?
      • What is urethral stricture?
      • What are the causes of urethral stricture?
      • What are the symptoms of urethral stricture?
      • What type of doctors treat urethral obstruction?
      • How is urethral stricture diagnosed?
      • Are there any special tests for diagnosing urethral stricture?
      • What is the treatment for urethral stricture?
      • What surgical options are available for urethral stricture?
      • Can urethral stricture be prevented?
      • What is the prognosis for urethral stricture?
Other Causes of Urinary Retention
  • Bladder Stones
  • Childbirth
  • Congenital Anatomical Abnormalities
  • Cystitis
  • Heavy Metal Poisoning
  • Hemorrhage or Blood Clot
  • Infection of the Prostate
  • Medications
  • Neurogenic Bladder
  • Pelvic Infection
  • Spinal Cord Compression
  • Spinal Cord Tumors
  • Trauma to the Pelvis
Examples of Medications for Urinary Retention




Women's Health

Find out what women really need.