Urinary Retention

Urinary retention is an inability to empty the bladder completely. The two main types of urinary retention are acute urinary retention and chronic urinary retention. Acute urinary retention is a sudden inability to empty the bladder. This is associated with severe discomfort and is a medical emergency. Chronic urinary retention is an inability to empty the bladder completely that develops over time.

Symptoms of chronic urinary retention are a sense that the bladder does not empty completely; difficulty initiating urination; a slow, weak, or interrupted urinary stream; having to urinate multiple times to empty the bladder; dribbling of urine after completion of urination; urinary urgency or frequency; leakage of urine; and recurrent urinary tract infections. Some women are unaware that they have urinary retention because they do not experience any symptoms.

The three main causes of urinary retention in women are a hypotonic bladder, dysfunctional voiding and vaginal prolapse. A hypotonic bladder muscle, also called a “lazy” or “neurogenic” bladder, does not contract (squeeze) hard enough during urination to empty the bladder completely. Dysfunctional voiding is a condition in which the muscles around the urethra do not relax enough during urination to allow urine to pass freely. Vaginal prolapse can kink or compress the urethra blocking the passage of urine. Chronic urinary retention can be a result of one or more of these causes.

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There are both non-surgical and surgical treatment options available for vaginal prolapse.

Non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Pelvic Floor Therapy
  • Vaginal Pessary
  • Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization

Surgical treatment options include:

  • InterStim™ Therapy
  • Urethrolysis

Request a Personal Consultation at Aguirre Specialty Care for Urinary Retention.


For more on urogynecology please visit the following pages: