What Is Urinary Retention?

There are 2 types of Bladder management issues that Continence products address. These are Retention and Incontinence. Retention is the inability to empty stored urine from the bladder. In this case the urine will need to be emptied through a catheter. The catheter may be a Foley or indwelling catheter, which stays in the bladder and continuously drains the urine. The patient could also use an intermittent catheter, which is inserted into the bladder to drain the urine, then removed. Retention can result from 2 types of Bladder conditions:

Atonic Bladder– A large dilated urinary bladder that does not empty, usually due to disturbance of innervations or to chronic obstruction.
Neurogenic Bladder– A dysfunction that results from interference with the normal nerve pathways associated with urination.


How Common Is It?

The most common causes of Urinary retention are Spinal Cord Injury referred to as SCI or Spina Bifida.


Spinal Cord Injury

According to a recent study by the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation 1.25million people or approximately .4% of the US population suffers from a Spinal Cord Injury. This is nearly 5 times previous estimates.


Spina Bifida

SBA estimates that more than 166,000 people in the United States are living with this birth defect. However, this figure is conservative and is based on estimates from the SBA Professional Advisory Council.  It is anticipated that the number may be higher as there are 54 million people living with disabilities in the United States.

The most serious form of Spina Bifida is called Myelomeningocele. Myelomeningocele is the most common type of spina bifida. It is a neural tube defect in which the bones of the spine do not completely form, resulting in an incomplete spinal canal. This causes the spinal cord and meninges (the tissues covering the spinal cord) to stick out of the child’s back.

Other causes include:

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Enlarged Prostate called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or simply BPH
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Prostate surgery
  • Neurological disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and stroke 
  • Infections of the brain or spinal cord
  • Medications – Many medicines work by calming overactive nerve signals. Various classes of drugs that block various signals may be used to treat allergies, stomach cramps, muscle spasms, anxiety, or depression. Some medicines are used to treat urinary incontinence and overactive bladder. The drugs that may cause urinary retention include antihistamines to treat allergies anticholinergics/antispasmodics to treat stomach cramps, muscle spasms, and urinary incontinence oxybutynin (Ditropan, Ditropan XL, Oxytrol) tolterodine (Detrol, Detrol LA)
  • Cystocele and Rectocele A cystocele occurs when the wall between a woman’s bladder and her vagina weakens and allows the bladder to droop into the vagina. The abnormal position of the bladder may cause urine to remain trapped. In a rectocele, the rectum droops into the back wall of the vagina. Cystocele and rectocele are often the results of a dropping of the pelvic support floor for the bladder. This sagging can pull the bladder out of position and cause urinary problems such as incontinence or urinary retention.
  • Urethral Stricture A stricture is a narrowing or closure of a tube. Men may have a narrowing of the urethra, usually caused by scarring after a trauma to the penis. Infection is a less common cause of scarring and closure in the urethra.


Effects of Urinary Retention

Urinary Retention can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life in the following ways:

  • Need to find safe zones to catheterize placing limitations in travel and recreation
  • Restricting intimacy
  • Restricting leisure, job and education opportunities
  • Initiating a move into nursing or residential care
  • Causing social embarrassment, or restricting social activities due to the fear of finding oneself in an embarrassing situation.
  • Causing conflict with a career


Urinary Tract Infection

Urine is normally sterile, and the normal flow of urine usually prevents bacteria from growing in the urinary tract. When urine stays in the bladder, however, bacteria have a chance to grow and infect the urinary tract.


Bladder Damage

If the bladder becomes stretched too far or for long periods, the muscle may be permanently damaged and lose its ability to contract.


Chronic Kidney Disease

If urine backs up into the kidneys, permanent kidney damage can lead to reduced kidney function and chronic kidney disease. If you lose too much of your kidney function, you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive.


Designed For You

Flexicare has a wide selection of products available to help you maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.

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Designed For You

Flexicare has a wide selection of products available to help you maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.

Find Out More