Urinary Retention

Urinary retention can be acute or chronic. Acute retention is an emergency, and if you are suddenly unable to empty your bladder, you should contact your doctor right away.

What is urinary retention? What causes it?

Urinary retention means that you are not able to empty your bladder completely, or, in some cases, at all. 

There are a number of reasons for chronic—or long term—urinary retention.

  • Sometimes, it is due to something blocking the urethra, or tube that carries your urine from the bladder and out of your body. 
  • Certain medications may also cause chronic urinary retention.
  • In men, urinary retention can be the result of an enlarged prostate.

You may suspect that you have urinary retention if you have a hard time starting to go to the bathroom or if the flow of your urine is slow and weak. Some people feel the need to urinate very often. Other people need to go multiple times and very close together

Learn More in our Online Learning Center

Are there treatments for urinary retention?


If you have acute urinary retention, please call your doctor right away. They may need to use a catheter, or thin tube, to drain your bladder.

If you have chronic urinary retention, your treatment will depend on the cause of your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend medication or surgery.

You and your doctor will work together to determine the best treatment plan for you. Be sure to tell your doctor about all of your symptoms, as well as any medications you take or recent surgeries you have had.