A small number of men may find it difficult to empty their bladder properly – this is called urine retention. If you’ve been diagnosed with an enlarged prostate, your doctor will look at your test results to see if you’re at risk of urine retention. You may be more likely to get urine retention if:
- you’re aged 70 or over
- your prostate is very large
- you have a raised prostate specific antigen (PSA) level
- you have severe urinary symptoms and a very slow flow.
Chronic urine retention
This is where you can’t empty your bladder fully, but can still urinate a little. It usually develops slowly over time. Chronic means long-lasting. The first signs often include a weak flow when you urinate, or leaking urine at night. You may feel that your abdomen (stomach area) is swollen, or that you’re not emptying your bladder fully.
Chronic urine retention is usually painless. But the pressure of the urine can slowly stretch your bladder muscle and make it weaker. This can cause urine to be left behind in the bladder when you urinate. If you don’t empty your bladder fully, you might get a urine infection, need to urinate more often, leak urine at night, or get painful bladder stones. You might also see some blood in your urine. Chronic urine retention can damage your bladder and kidneys if it isn’t treated.
There are treatments for chronic urine retention, including:
- passing a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to drain urine from your bladder
- surgery to widen the urethra.
Acute urine retention
This is when you suddenly and painfully can’t urinate at all. It needs treating straight away. If this happens, call your doctor or nurse, or go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department. They may need to drain your bladder using a catheter. Before the catheter is removed, you may be offered a medicine called an alpha-blocker. This may help stop you getting acute retention again.
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