What is it?

This is where a woman finds it difficult to pass urine. There are two different types of urinary retention – acute, where the ability to pass urine stops completely and this becomes a medical emergency, and chronic, which is where it happens more gradually and the volume slowly reduces.

Urinary retention is more common in men, but can still affect women.


  • There are a number of potential causes of urinary retention:
  • A blockage
  • Infection and swelling – pressure can be placed upon the urethra
  • Urinary strictures
  • Nerve causes – such as stroke or diabetes
  • Past catheterisation
  • Drugs such as antihistamines or antidepressants, as these can affect the bladder muscle
  • Cystocele – where the bladder sags o
  • Rectocele – where the rectum sags into the back wall of the vagina
  • Vaginal childbirth


Where a patient has acute retention, catheterisation will be required immediately.

For patients with chronic retention, they may still need a catheter but this may not be a long-term solution, unless the retention is persistent. There can be side effects of long-term catheterisation as well.

If men have moderate or sever symptoms, they may be recommended an alpha-adrenoceptor blocker, which relaxes the muscle.

Meet our specialists

Mr Rajiv Pillai a urologist in East Anglia
Mr Rajiv Pillai


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Mr Zafar Maan a urologist in East Anglia
Mr Zafar Maan

BSc (Hons) MSc (Urol) MA (Clin Ed) FRCS (Urol)

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Mr Sam Datta a urologist in East Anglia
Mr Sam Datta


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