Urinary retention is the inability to empty the bladder completely. There are many causes of urinary retention- some that easy to reverse and others that are not.
Urinary retention is a medical condition that requires evaluation and treatment since lack of treatment can lead to problems with the urinary tract, such as infections or kidney damage.
Who is at Risk for Urinary Retention?
Women with pelvic organ prolapse, who are older or have neurological problems are at increased risk for urinary retention. Women with uterine fibroids, on certain medications or who have had surgical repair for stress incontinence may also have problems.
There are few symptoms that women with urinary retention experience. Most commonly women state that they cannot fully empty the bladder or that it takes a long time to empty. Some women report having to frequently use the bathroom or positioning their bodies in a certain way to empty.
Women with prolapse will notice that emptying is easier in the beginning of the day when the prolapse has not come fully down. Some will have to push the prolapse out of the way in order to empty the bladder. Those who experience retention may notice that they frequently have urinary tract infections.
The diagnosis of urinary retention is made by measuring the volume of urine that is left in the bladder after a normal attempted void. While it is normal to have a little bit of urine left in the bladder after a void, over 100 cc. (demonstrated on multiple occasions) is considered urinary retention. This can be measured using a small ultrasound machine or passing a catheter into the bladder to collect the remaining urine.
Treatments for Urinary Retention
The primary treatment for urinary retention is to treat the reversible causes such as medications, prolapse or obstruction. Other treatment options include self-catheterization, and sacral neuromodulation.