Urinary obstruction

Some illnesses and conditions can block your flow of urine, either fully or partially. If this happens, it can be serious. A blockage usually occurs in the urethra (the tube that goes from your bladder to the outside). It may also occur in your bladder or ureters (the tubes that connect your kidneys to your bladder).

Summary

A blockage can be caused by an infection, kidney or bladder stones, or nerve problems in your bladder.

Other causes include:

  • a swollen prostate gland (in men)
  • sagging pelvic organs (in women)
  • abnormal narrowing of the urethra
  • damage to a woman’s urethra during sex
  • kidney failure
  • a tumour.

Symptoms

If you have a urinary obstruction, you may have the following symptoms:  

  • You may be unable to pass urine.
  • You may have reduced urine flow.
  • Your urine flow may stop and start.
  • You may have pain while you're passing urine.
  • You may have dripping or dribbling when you start or finish urinating.

There may be a delay in the urine stream starting.

Treatment

See your doctor

If you have symptoms of a urinary blockage, you should see your doctor quickly.

  • If your doctor finds that that the blockage is in your urethra or bladder, they can relieve the pressure with a catheter, which is a flexible slender tube.

If the obstruction is in your ureter, emergency surgery may be necessary.

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