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What is Urinary Retention

Urinary retention (UR) means someone is unable to completely empty their bladder. They may only produce a "dribble" of urine. Others strain to push out the urine, or can't urinate at all. 1,5,6,8,9

There are two kinds of urinary retention. The first is called acute urinary retention (AUR for short). This happens suddenly and lasts only a short time. It can be very painful, and it can be a life-threatening medical condition. If you have AUR, you should go to the emergency room as soon as possible. 2,3,4,5,7,9

The second kind of urinary retention is called chronic urinary retention (CUR). Chronic means it is a long-lasting medical condition. People with chronic urinary retention can urinate but cannot completely empty all of the urine from their bladders. They may not know they have the condition until it causes another problem. One of these problems could be the accidental loss of urine (which is called urinary incontinence). Another of them is a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is an illness caused by harmful bacteria growing in the urinary tract. 2,5,9

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