Urinary retention is the inability to empty the bladder. It occurs when a blocked urinary tract, nerve problem or other physical condition causes urine to accumulate in the bladder. It is 10 times more common among men than women, especially as they age.
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The main cause of urinary retention is an enlarged prostate (in men). Among causes for both men and women:
The most common symptom of urinary retention is the inability to urinate, despite feeling the urge. Other symptoms include:
A urologist will perform a physical exam of the lower abdomen. Other possible tests include:
Usually, the cause of the urinary retention will be treated separately. For example, if the blockage is caused by an enlarged prostate, surgery may be required to remove or alleviate the obstruction. To manage the retention itself, the most common treatment is medication, such as the drug Flowmax®.
If the retention is acute or if it persists, a physician may recommend a catheter.