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How Can Urinary Retention Affect You?

When urinary retention is acute, it can be very painful. It can also be life-threatening. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a health care provider right away:

  • Cannot urinate at all
  • Have discomfort or pain in your lower abdomen
  • Painful, urgent need to urinate
  • Bloating of the lower abdomen 5,7,8,9

With chronic urinary retention you may experience these symptoms: 

  • Urination eight or more times a day
  • Trouble beginning a urine stream
  • A weak or an interrupted urine stream 
  • An urgent need to urinate with little success when trying to urinate
  • Feeling the need to urinate after finishing urination
  • Mild and constant discomfort in the lower abdomen and urinary tract 5,8

None of these symptoms may seem severe enough to require seeing a doctor. But if you have chronic urinary retention and do not get treatment, you have a higher chance of developing more serious medical problems. 5

Please note that this information provided by BARD Medical is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a medical professional. Information is as of 12/2014.  Please check references for updated information.


  1. Urology Care Foundation – Neurogenic Bladder Symptoms, Updated May 2014
  2. Kirby R.S. Prostate Disease and their Treatments, Health Press Oxford 2010
  3. Diseases and Conditions; Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), Updated 12/2001
  4. Lepo H, Managing and Preventing Acute Urinary Retention, Urol. 2005; 7 (Suppl 8) S26-S33
  5. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) Urinary Retention Updated 8/2014
  6. R Appell MD, Voiding Dysfunction – Diagnosis and Treatment, Humana Press Inc. New Jersey 2000
  7. A Wein MD, Campbell-Walsh Urology, Elsevier Saunders, Philadelphia PA, 2012
  8. A Slack, D Newman, A Wein MD, Fast Facts: Bladder Disorders, Oxford Press Ltd., Oxford UK, 2011
  9. B Selius DO, R Subedi MD, Urinary Retention in Adults: Diagnosis and Management, American Family Physician, Volume 77 Number 3, 2008