Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Urinary Retention

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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What is urinary retention?

Urinary retention is when:

  • You can't urinate (pee) at all or only a little

  • You can urinate but there's still urine in your bladder after you're done

With urinary retention:

What causes urinary retention?

What are the symptoms of urinary retention?

If you can't empty your bladder completely:

If you can't urinate at all:

  • No ability to start urination

  • Pain as your bladder stretches

  • Swelling in your lower belly

How can doctors tell if I have urinary retention?

If you can't pass any urine at all, doctors will know you have urinary retention. If you're able to pass some urine, doctors will do a test to see how much urine stays in your bladder.

Doctors will also do tests:

How do doctors treat urinary retention?

If you can’t urinate at all, doctors will insert a catheter into your bladder right away to drain the urine. To treat the cause of your urinary retention, doctors may:

  • Have you stop any medicines that may be causing the problem

  • If you’re a man with an enlarged prostate, treat it with surgery or medicines

  • Prescribe medicine to relax the muscles at the opening of your bladder

  • If you have nerve problems, have you put a catheter in your bladder several times a day to drain urine

  • Sometimes, do surgery to pass urine out of your body in a different way

Where can I find more information on urinary retention?

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version

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