Urinary retention is when the body is unable to pass urine, and can be either acute or chronic. Dr. Jen Tan explains what urinary retention is, why it can be caused by an enlarged prostate, and what you can do about it.
Urinary retention is when you struggle to urinate, struggle to empty the bladder completely, or when it becomes impossible to urinate at all. This can, in some cases, be a side effect of an enlarged prostate.
If you suffer from chronic urinary retention, this means that you can urinate, but have trouble starting and often do not fully empty your bladder. This means that urine stagnates in your bladder for too long, giving bacteria time to multiply. This can cause cystitis, an unpleasant infection of the lower urinary tract which often needs treating with antibiotics.
If you suffer from acute urinary retention, which is a total inability to pass urine, you may experience kidney damage, as the infection in the bladder moves to the kidneys. This condition can start very suddenly and is often extremely painful.
Acute urinary retention is in fact classed as a medical emergency, so if you experience this symptom it is important to get immediate medical treatment.
This symptom occurs because of the prostate’s location. It not only sits underneath the bladder but it surrounds the urethra. As it expands, it is largely prevented from expanding outwards because of the tissues around it. Instead it grows inwards, ‘squeezing’ the urethra. This makes it more difficult for urine to pass from the bladder through the urethra.
In severe cases, the prostate can completely block off the urethra, meaning that no urine can leave the bladder at all: this is when acute urinary retention occurs.
While acute urinary retention is a serious medical condition that requires prompt treatment, there are some things you can do to try to prevent it from occurring in the first place:
Although frequent urination can be annoying, it is important that you don’t force yourself to hold it in for too long – this can stretch the bladder and weaken the bladder muscles.
Check with your doctor to see if any medication you are on can cause urinary retention, as this is a side effect of some prescription medication. If this is a contributory factor, your doctor may be able to provide an alternative or recommend you discontinue it
Try adding fresh cranberry juice to you daily diet, as this helps to keep the urinary tract clean – which is important in preventing cystitis if you are struggling to empty your bladder
Pumpkin seeds have traditionally been used to treat reduce an enlarged prostate and manage its symptoms so you may find these helpful
If you are struggling to urinate, try taking a warm bath or running a tap, as this may stimulate urine flow. If you still cannot pass urine, seek medical assistance
You may find that simple yoga and kegel exercises may help with urinary retention by strengthening the muscles around the urinary tract, giving you more control over your bladder. Try the exercises shown in the video below.
For the general symptoms of an enlarged prostate we recommend an extract of Saw Palmetto, as this has traditionally been used to help with the urinary problems that accompany prostate enlargement, so may help to alleviate urinary retention. This extract is available in A.Vogel’s Prostosan capsules.
If you are suffering from chronic urine retention, you may want to try a cranberry supplement as this helps to keep urine and the bladder healthy, which is especially important if urine retention is causing stagnant urine.
Conventional treatment is essential for acute urinary retention as this is a medical emergency that needs prompt action. Treatment for this is usually the insertion of a catheter to drain urine out of the bladder.
If the cause of your urinary retention is definitely an enlarged prostate then treatment of the prostate itself may be the most effective way to manage this symptom. Conventional treatments include medication and a range of surgical options. These are detailed on our treatments page.
"Having been told by a consultant urologist some 30 years ago that I would at some stage require surgery, I am pleased to say that having used the saw palmetto capsules from that time he has (so far) been proved wrong!" James, UK