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Inability to Urinate

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 14 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Urinate Urinary Inability Retention

An inability to urinate, also called urinary retention, is a condition which tends to affect men more than women. There are many common causes of urinary retention though the symptoms associated with a general inability to urinate can be embarrassing. Seeking medical attention is advised when urinary retention begins, and several self-care strategies may also be able to ease this condition.

Common Causes of Urinary Retention

There are many causes of urinary retention, so exploring the potential causes of any case is important to diagnosing and treating any associated health conditions which may be present. Common causes which could render an individual unable to urinate include:
  • Weak bladder muscles.
  • Prostate enlargement, whether benign or due to cancer or infection.
  • Lodged bladder stone.
  • Disruption to the nerves between the bladder and the brain due to disease or injury.
  • Infection and associated swelling.
  • Side effect of an anaesthetic following surgery.
  • Side effect of medications which cause muscle tightening or relaxation.
  • Side effect of a health supplement.
  • Abnormal urinary structures.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Vaginal childbirth.
  • “Shy bladder syndrome” or inability to urinate with another person in the same room.

Symptoms Associated with Inability to Urinate

Not being able to urinate as needed can become embarrassing, particularly when you find yourself unsuccessfully returning to the bathroom time after time. Urinating in a public restroom can also become embarrassing when others may overhear or witness your condition. Associated symptoms can include:
  • Discomfort or pain.
  • Bloating, particularly in the lower abdomen.
  • Weak stream of urine.
  • Disrupted stream of urine.
  • A consistent urge to urinate, even after just finishing.
  • Overflow incontinence, or dribbling urine between visits to the bathroom due to a full bladder.
  • Potential to leak urine when pressure is put on the bladder through laughing or sneezing.

Seeking Medical Attention for Urinary Retention

When urinary retention begins it should be viewed as a health risk and you should seek medical attention immediately. This is particularly true if you experience back pain, blood in the urine, vomiting or fever which may indicate an acute infection. A diagnosis will likely depend upon a number of tests which may include a full physical, urine testing, blood tests, bladder scan, cytoscopy to see inside the bladder, testing of prostate fluid and x-rays and/or CT scans of internal organs. Depending on the severity of the inability to urinate you may also need a catheter inserted to drain urine. Treatments for urinary retention may include medications for underlying conditions or surgery to correct structural abnormalities.

Self-Care for an Inability to Urinate

There are a number of self-care strategies to cope with an inability to urinate as well. These methods should not take the place of medical attention, however, but can be used while waiting to see your GP or in addition to prescribed treatment if need be. You might try:
  • Walking around for a little while, particularly if you are relatively immobile otherwise.
  • Sitting in a warm bath prior to attempting urination.
  • Placing a heating pad or hot water bottle on the bladder prior to attempting to urinate.
  • Running taps in the bathroom to stimulate urination.
  • Massaging your abdomen to stimulate urination.
  • Finding a pattern to your urinary retention and working with your natural rhythm.

An inability can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition. It can also commonly be caused other health conditions, so understanding the associated symptoms and seeking medical attention is imperative. A variety of self-care strategies can be used while waiting to see a medical professional as well as alongside other prescribed treatments.

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