Urinary Retention: Symptoms & Causes

Urinary Retention: Symptoms & Causes - Underleak

Urinary retention refers to the inability to fully empty the bladder, leading to discomfort and potential complications.

This article provides an overview of urinary retention, highlights key symptoms, explores the causes, and offers strategies for self-assessment and lifestyle adjustments to coping with the situation.


Urinary retention occurs when the bladder does not empty completely. It can be categorized as either acute or chronic. 

Acute urinary retention is a sudden inability to urinate, often accompanied by severe pain and discomfort. 

Chronic urinary retention refers to an ongoing inability to fully empty the bladder, which may be less severe but can still have a significant impact on daily life.

This can lead to a range of uncomfortable symptoms and can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. Symptoms such as:

  • Frequent urination 
  • Weak urine flow
  • The sensation of not being able to fully empty the bladder 

… could potentially make it difficult to concentrate, sleep, and participate in physical activities. 

Additionally, untreated urinary retention can lead to complications such as urinary tract infections and kidney damage.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, it is important to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Early intervention can prevent complications and help alleviate symptoms.

Urinary Retention: key symptoms

Urinary Retention: key symptoms

The symptoms of urinary retention may vary from person to person, but some common signs to watch for include:

  •         Frequent need to urinate
  •         Weak urine flow
  •         Sensation of incomplete bladder emptying.
  •         Inability to start urination
  •         Pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen or pelvis

If you notice any of the common symptoms mentioned above, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

The treatment approach may differ between acute and chronic urinary retention. 

  • Acute urinary retention is often sudden and requires immediate medical attention. 
  • On the other hand, chronic urinary retention is an ongoing condition that may require long-term management strategies

Causes of Urinary Retention

Various factors can contribute to urinary retention symptoms, including medical conditions and lifestyle choices. 

Factors leading to urinary retention

Urinary retention can be caused by various factors, including:

  •         Blockage or obstruction in the urinary tract
  •         Damaged nerves that control bladder function
  •         Weakened or damaged bladder muscles
  •         Enlarged prostate in men
  •         Infections or inflammation of the urinary tract

Medical conditions associated with urinary retention

Several medical conditions can contribute to urinary retention symptoms. These include:

  •         Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
  •         Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  •         Bladder stones
  •         Nerve damage caused by diabetes or other conditions
  •         Pelvic organ prolapse

Diagnosis and Treatment


To diagnose urinary retention, a healthcare provider will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination. They may also recommend various diagnostic tests such as a bladder scan, urinary flow test, cystoscopy, or nerve tests.


The treatment approach varies based on the cause and severity of the condition. Options include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Modifying fluid intake, avoiding bladder irritants, and regular physical activity.
  • Medication: Antibiotics for infections, alpha-blockers and 5-alpha reductase inhibitors for an enlarged prostate.
  • Bladder training: Timed urination to train bladder control.
  • Catheterization: Draining urine using a thin tube for immediate relief.
  • Surgery: If caused by a blockage or structural issue, surgery may be necessary.

Prevention & Lifestyle Adjustment

In addition to medical interventions, supportive measures and lifestyle adjustments can significantly improve daily functioning with urinary retention symptoms. 

Coping mechanisms for managing urinary retention symptoms

Coping mechanisms for managing urinary retention symptoms

Managing urinary retention symptoms can be challenging, but there are coping mechanisms that can help. These include:

  •         Practicing relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety and stress
  •         Using distraction techniques during episodes of discomfort or urgency
  •         Seeking support from friends, family, or support groups
  •         Engaging in activities that bring joy and distract from symptoms

Lifestyle modifications to alleviate symptoms

Making certain lifestyle modifications can alleviate urinary retention symptoms. Some suggestions include:

  •         Reducing caffeine and alcohol intake
  •         Avoiding foods and beverages that irritate the bladder, such as spicy foods or acidic drinks
  •         Staying hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day
  •         Scheduling regular bathroom breaks to avoid holding urine for extended periods

In addition, engaging in regular physical activity can help improve bladder function and alleviate urinary retention symptoms.

Specifically, pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, can strengthen the muscles that support bladder control. These exercises can be done discreetly throughout the day and can contribute to better bladder function over time.


In conclusion, being aware of urinary retention symptoms and taking appropriate measures can significantly improve your quality of life. By understanding the signs, causes, and tracking your symptoms, you can make informed decisions and adopt lifestyle adjustments that enhance daily functioning. Remember, seeking professional help is crucial for accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plans. Empower yourself to live better with urinary retention symptoms.

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