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Retention can almost be seen as the opposite of incontinence - the issue here is incomplete bladder emptying or problems emptying in general. The inability to empty the bladder completely can have many causes, which are generally divided into acute urinary retention and chronic urinary retention.

Learn more about LoFric bladder products here

Mark's story

Mark's profession prevented him from visiting the toilet whenever he needed to, and as a result,  he had developed dribbling and retention. Here he talks about how CIC releaved him from the anxiety and embarrassement this caused in social situations.

Acute urinary retention

The sudden inability to urinate is usually symptomatic of another condition that requires treatment. It may be caused by obstructions in the bladder or urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder outside the body), by a disruption of sensory information in the nervous system (e.g. spinal cord or nerve damage), or by swelling of the bladder (e.g. by delaying urination for a long period of time). Besides a clear and sudden inability to void the bladder, people with acute urinary retention usually experience a distended abdomen.

Complications of untreated urinary retention can include bladder damage and chronic kidney failure. Treatment is draining the bladder of urine with intermittent self-catheterization along with treatment of the underlying cause.

Chronic urinary retention

Chronic urinary retention is, like acute retention, commonly caused by a separate condition that requires treatment. It may be a hinder in the outlet, a weak bladder muscle, a neurological problem or the side effect of a pharmaceutical, to name a few. Symptoms can be confusing, because while you may be able to urinate, you may have trouble starting a stream or emptying your bladder completely. You may urinate frequently; you may feel an urgent need to urinate but have little success when you get to the toilet; or you may feel you still have to go after you’ve finished urinating. At the same time, you may also dribble urine in between voiding,  due to an overfull bladder (overflow incontinence).

Because of these confusing symptoms, chronic retention quite often gets diagnosed as overactive bladder or urge incontinence. This is serious, as the treatment for overactivity is basically to “calm the bladder down” with pharmaceuticals - which, of course, increases the level of retention. Your health provider may use an ultra sound or measure residual urine after catheterization to be sure you are not experiencing retention. Complications with untreated chronic retention include urinary tract infections, bladder damage, incontinence and chronic kidney failure. Treatment is similar to acute retention, treating the underlying cause and commonly draining of urine by intermittent self-catheterization.

Question: How can I be incontinent when my problem is retention?

Incontinence and retention are completely opposite problems – simply put, incontinence makes it hard to hold urine, while retention makes it hard to expel urine. But when you are experiencing retention, it may prevent you from emptying your bladder completely. Your body continues to produce more urine than you’re expelling on every visit to the toilet. Eventually, the build-up of urine in the bladder goes over your bladder’s capacity to hold it - resulting in urine leakage usually associated with incontinence, as well as potentially dangerous backflow to the kidneys or bladder muscle damage.

The good news is whether leakage is due to retention or incontinence, it can be helped quickly and easily with self-catheterization. Self-catheterizing with LoFric helps you make sure the bladder is completely drained, preventing an over-full bladder and the leakage and health problems it can cause.

Learn more about LoFric bladder products here