The inability to partially or completely empty the bladder is known as urinary retention. It can be a chronic condition and be painless or can occur acutely and cause significant pain.
When voiding, most people comfortably empty the vast majority of the urine from their bladder. Sometimes it may take more than one try to “feel empty”
In the absence of any neurological or anatomical issue, urinary retention is not very common. The causes of retained urine vary from the potential weakness of the bladder muscle, poorly functional nerves to the bladder, a blockage not allowing urine to pass, various types of medications, or other reasons.
Some female common reasons to retain urine may be with a bladder prolapse (cystocele), the aging process, neurological issues such as multiple sclerosis or stroke, or even learned habits of delayed voiding sometimes adopted by teachers, pilots, flight attendants, or behavioral habits.
Retained urine can be benign and painless or can provoke a sense of having to void even after just having voided. Retained urine can cause a sense of bladder or suprapubic pressure and a recurrent sense of urgency. This may occur in the daytime or at night.
Older patients sometimes notice that the bladder empties less well overnight. Certain medications, surgery, or anesthesia can inhibit bladder emptying. Retained urine can sometimes lead to recurrent urinary tract infections or lead to the formation of bladder stones.
Retained urine and how to treat it can easily be determined during an office visit.