Thumbnail image of: Urinary System: Illustration

Urinary Blockage

What is urinary blockage?

Urinary blockage is something that slows or stops the flow of urine. Any part of the urinary tract may become blocked. This includes the:

  • Kidneys, which make urine
  • Ureters, which are the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • Bladder, which stores urine
  • Urethra, which is the tube that drains urine from the bladder and out of the body

This problem is also called urinary obstruction.

What is the cause?

There are many possible causes of urinary blockage, such as:

  • Kidney stones
  • A narrowing of the urethra caused by scar tissue from previous infections or surgeries
  • Medicines that can affect bladder emptying, such as cold medicines, allergy medicines, and some antidepressants
  • Tumors of the urinary system, prostate gland, or female organs
  • A prostate gland that has gotten bigger and is putting pressure on the urethra
  • A problem with how your urinary tract formed before you were born

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms depend on where the blockage is and how much it is stopping the flow of urine. Symptoms may include:

  • Crampy pain, sometimes severe, in your belly, side, or back
  • A strong need to urinate with trouble urinating
  • Blood in the urine
  • Loss of bladder control

You may not be able to urinate at all, or the flow of urine may be less than usual. The flow may stop and start and you may not be able to control it. You may have dribbling after urinating.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. A sample of your urine will be tested. You may have the following tests to look at the organs inside your belly and help find where the blockage is:

  • X-ray
  • An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to show pictures of the organs
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the organs
  • MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the organs
  • Cystoscopy, which uses a small lighted tube passed through your urethra into your bladder to look at the bladder, urethra, and prostate gland

How is it treated?

The treatment for urinary blockage depends on its cause and location. The goal is to get urine flowing normally again. This will relieve pain and prevent damage to the kidneys and urinary tract.

If the blockage is between a kidney and the bladder, like a kidney stone, your healthcare provider may put a drainage tube called a stent in the ureter to drain urine from the kidney. You may need additional surgery to remove or bypass the cause of the blockage.

If the blockage is between the bladder and the opening of the urethra, your provider may put a catheter into the urethra to drain urine from the bladder. A catheter is a thin, flexible tube. The catheter is usually left in place for a few days or until the cause of the problem can be treated. It also allows the bladder to return to normal size after having been stretched out from holding more than the normal amount of urine because of the blockage.

If the blockage is caused by a medicine you are taking, your provider may recommend that you stop taking the medicine or change your medicine.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent urinary blockage?

Some causes of urinary blockage cannot be prevented.

It may help if you:

  • Drink enough liquids to keep your urine light yellow in color.
  • Follow any changes in your diet recommended by your provider.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-16
Last reviewed: 2014-08-25
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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