Urinary Tract Obstruction - Symptoms, Types, Causes & Diagnosis

Urinary Tract Obstruction - Symptoms, Types, Causes & Diagnosis

Urinary tract obstruction refers to any blockage that prevents urine from flowing freely through the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. This obstruction can occur at any point in the...

Don't let urinary tract obstruction block your flow: know the causes, symptoms, and treatment strategies.

An outline

Urinary tract obstruction refers to any blockage that prevents urine from flowing freely through the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. This obstruction can occur at any point in the urinary system and can be caused by a variety of factors, including anatomical abnormalities, kidney stones, tumors, or inflammation.

The severity of urinary tract obstruction can vary widely, ranging from mild to life-threatening. Mild obstruction may cause only mild discomfort or urinary symptoms, while severe obstruction can lead to kidney damage or failure, sepsis, and even death if left untreated.

To avoid problems and maintain renal function, prompt diagnosis, and treatment are crucial. Depending on the underlying reason and the degree of the blockage, many treatment options could involve drugs, surgery, or other procedures.

Know the Frequency

The prevalence of urinary tract obstruction varies depending on the underlying causes, age group, and gender.

In general, males are more likely than females to experience urinary tract blockage, and the frequency rises with age.

The frequency of urinary tract blockage in the United States is believed to be approximately 2%, with greater rates in males and older persons, according to research published in the Journal of Urology.

Live life without obstruction: know the signs of urinary tract obstruction

Depending on where and how severely the obstruction is blocked, many things might induce urinary tract obstruction.

Here are some of the common causes of urinary tract obstruction in detail:

  • Renal stones: Small, solid mineral deposits known as kidney stones can develop in the kidneys. A kidney stone that has grown too big may restrict urine flow, resulting in discomfort and other symptoms.
  • Enlarged prostate: The urethra, the tube that conducts urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, can get compressed in males with an enlarged prostate gland. This may result in blockage of the urinary system and difficulty urinating.
  • Tumors: Cancerous or non-cancerous growths in the urinary tract can also obstruct by blocking the flow of urine. Tumors may develop in the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra.
  • Urinary tract infections: Infections of the urinary system can induce edema and inflammation, which can lead to blockage of the urinary tract. This can happen in the bladder or urethra and is more common in females than males.
  • Neurogenic bladder: Neurogenic bladder is a condition in which there is a problem with the nerves that control the bladder. This can cause urinary tract obstruction and lead to problems with urination.
  • Congenital abnormalities: Some people are born with urinary tract abnormalities, such as a constricted urethra or a restricted ureter. These diseases may necessitate surgical treatment and can block the urinary system.
  • Blood clots: Blood clots in the urinary tract can also cause obstruction, particularly in people with a history of blood clotting disorders or those who have recently undergone surgery.
  • Urethral stricture: Urinary incontinence may result from urethral strictures, which are narrowings of the urethra. Scar tissue from an accident, an infection, or surgery may be to blame. You may need to urinate more frequently than normal if you have a urinary tract blockage.
  • Bladder stones: Like kidney stones, bladder stones are hard mineral deposits that can form in the bladder. They can cause urinary tract obstruction if they become too large or if they move into the urethra.
  • Blood vessel abnormalities: Rarely, abnormalities in the blood vessels in the urinary tract can cause urinary tract obstruction. These abnormalities can include arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) or varicoceles, which are enlarged veins in the scrotum that can obstruct the flow of urine.
  • Medications: Certain medications can cause urinary tract obstruction as a side effect. For example, anticholinergic medications used to treat an overactive bladder can cause urinary retention, which can lead to obstruction.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy for cancer in the pelvic area can cause scarring and inflammation in the urinary tract, which can lead to obstruction.
  • Pregnancy: In rare cases, pregnancy can cause urinary tract obstruction if the growing uterus compresses the ureters or bladder.

It's crucial to remember that if left untreated, urinary tract blockage can result in significant problems including kidney damage or infection.


Listen to your body: recognize the symptoms of urinary tract obstruction

Following are some common signs and symptoms of urinary tract obstruction:

  • Difficulty urinating: The most common symptom of urinary tract obstruction is difficulty or pain when urinating. This can be due to the blockage that prevents urine from flowing out normally.
  • Urinary frequency: The bladder can't contain as much pee as it usually can, which is why this is the case.
  • Urinary incontinence: If the blockage is severe, you might develop urinary incontinence or the involuntary loss of pee.
  • Lower abdominal or back pain or discomfort: Obstruction might result in lower abdominal or back pain or discomfort. Depending on how strong and where the obstruction is, this discomfort may be minor or severe
  • Blood in the urine: Urinary tract blockage sometimes referred to as hematuria, can result in blood in the urine. Either the blood is visible to the unaided eye or requires a microscope to be seen.
  • Swelling: Obstruction may result in swelling of the feet, legs, or lower abdomen. This is caused by a buildup of fluid that the body is unable to eliminate through urine.
  • Fever and chills: If the obstruction is caused by an infection, you may experience fever and chills as a result of the infection.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Obstruction of the urinary tract can cause nausea and vomiting. This is usually a sign of a more severe obstruction that requires immediate medical attention.
  • Reduced urine output: Obstruction can cause a decrease in urine output. This may be due to the blockage preventing urine from flowing out of the body or due to kidney damage caused by the obstruction.
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine:Urinary tract obstruction can cause changes in the color, odor, and clarity of urine. Urine that is cloudy or smells bad may indicate an infection or other underlying issues.
  • Back discomfort: The ureters, which are part of the upper urinary tract, can get blocked, resulting in side and back pain. This pain might be strong and lingering, and it might come with additional symptoms like a fever or chills.
  • Retention of urine: A urinary tract blockage may occasionally result in urine retention, which is the inability to empty the bladder.

To relieve the discomfort and agony caused by this, medical treatment may be necessary.

Discover the state of your urinary system: detect the urinary tract blockage

Urinary tract obstruction can be diagnosed through a combination of radiographic, clinical, and laboratory tests. Depending on the suspected blockage site (upper or lower urinary tract) and the underlying reason for the obstruction, several tests may be employed.

Radiographic tests

  1. Ultrasonography: A non-invasive imaging procedure known as ultrasonography employs high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the urinary system. It frequently serves as the initial diagnostic procedure for urinary tract blockage. The existence, location, and severity of a blockage can all be determined by ultrasonography.

  2. Intravenous urography (IVU): IVU involves injecting a contrast dye into a vein in the arm, which then travels through the bloodstream and is excreted by the kidneys into the urine. X-ray images are taken at various intervals to visualize the flow of the contrast dye through the urinary tract. IVU is useful for detecting an obstruction in the upper urinary tract.
  3. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): To produce precise pictures of the urinary system, MRI employs magnetic fields and radio waves. It can be especially useful for identifying obstruction in the upper urinary tract, as well as any associated abnormalities.
  4. Retrograde pyelography (RP): RP involves injecting a contrast dye into the ureters and taking X-ray images to visualize the flow of the dye through the urinary tract. RP can help identify the location and cause of obstruction in the upper urinary tract.
  5. Voiding cystourethrography (VCUG): VCUG involves injecting a contrast dye into the bladder and taking X-ray images while the patient is urinating. VCUG can be useful for identifying obstructions in the lower urinary tract, such as a urethral stricture or bladder neck obstruction.

Clinical tests

  1. Physical examination: A complete physical examination may uncover symptoms of a blocked urinary tract, such as flank discomfort, abdominal distention, or a palpable bladder.
  2. Urinalysis: Urinalysis can detect the presence of blood, protein, or white blood cells in the urine, which may indicate urinary tract obstruction or infection.
  3. Urine culture: A urine culture can identify the presence of bacteria in the urine, which may indicate an infection that can lead to urinary tract obstruction.

Laboratory tests

  1. Blood testing: Blood tests can assist assess kidney function and find any underlying problems that may be causing urinblockagest blockages, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and serum creatinine levels.
  2. Renal function tests: Renal function tests, such as a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) test, can provide information about kidney function and the extent of kidney damage caused by obstruction.
  3. Cystoscopy: Cystoscopy involves inserting a thin tube with a camera into the bladder to visualize the urethra and bladder. This test can be used to identify any abnormalities or obstructions in the lower urinary tract.
  4. Uroflowmetry: Uroflowmetry measures the rate and volume of urine flow during voiding. It may be used to assess the level of blockage in the lower urinary tract and spot any anomalies connected to it, including a weak urine stream or incomplete bladder emptying.

It's crucial to remember that not every case of urinary tract blockage may require all of these tests. The selection of diagnostic tests will be based on the symptoms, medical background, and other criteria specific to the patient. The best tests for your particular circumstances will be chosen in collaboration with you by your healthcare professional.

Relieving the flow, restoring your comfort: A comprehensive treatment approach for Urinary Tract Obstruction

There are various treatment options available for urinary tract obstruction, including both medications and surgery.


  1. Alpha-blockers: Alpha-blockers are a group of medications that relax the muscles in the urinary tract and help to improve urine flow. These medications are commonly used to treat urinary obstruction caused by an enlarged prostate in men. Examples of alpha-blockers include tamsulosin, alfuzosin, and doxazosin.
  2. Antibiotic: Antibiotics are used to treat urinary tract infections, which can enlarge and inflame the urinary tract and clog it. The kind of bacteria causing the infection determines which antibiotics should be used.
  3. Diuretics: Diuretics are drugs that assist the body produce more pee, which helps relieve blockage brought on by fluid buildup in the urinary system. These drugs are frequently employed in the management of urinary obstructions such as kidney stones.
  4. Antimuscarinics: Antimuscarinic medications can help to relax the bladder muscles and reduce urinary urgency and frequency, which can be helpful in cases of bladder obstruction. Solifenacin, tolterodine, and oxybutynin are a few examples of antimuscarinics.
  5. Alpha-reductase inhibitors: Alpha-reductase inhibitors are medications that can help to shrink an enlarged prostate and improve urine flow in men. Examples of alpha-reductase inhibitors include finasteride and dutasteride


  1. Ureteral stenting: Ureteral stenting involves placing a small tube (stent) into the ureter to help keep it open and allow urine to flow freely. This procedure is commonly used to treat obstruction caused by kidney stones, tumors, or scar tissue.
  2. Nephrostomy: Nephrostomy is a procedure that involves placing a tube through the skin and into the kidney to allow urine to drain directly from the kidney to a collection bag outside the body.
  3. Surgery to remove blockages: Surgery may be required to remove blockages caused by tumors, stones, or other obstructions that cannot be treated with other methods. This may involve removing a portion of the ureter or bladder or removing the entire affected kidney.
  4. Prostate surgery: In cases of urinary obstruction caused by an enlarged prostate, surgery may be required to remove the excess tissue and improve urine flow. This may involve various techniques such as transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), laser prostatectomy, or open surgery.
  5. Bladder neck incision: In some cases of bladder obstruction caused by an enlarged prostate, a bladder neck incision may be performed. InToncrease urine flow, this procedure includes creating a tiny incision in the bladder neck.
  6. Urethral dilation: Urethral dilation is a procedure that involves stretching the urethra to widen it and improve urine flow. This may be helpful in cases of urethral obstruction caused by scar tissue or other obstructions.
  7. Endoscopic surgery: Endoscopic surgery involves using a small camera and specialized instruments to remove blockages in the urinary tract. This can be a minimally invasive alternative to open surgery in some cases.
  8. Lithotripsy: With a treatment called lithotripsy, kidney stones are broken up into smaller fragments that may be more readily discharged in the urine. In situations of kidney stone blockage, this could be useful.

"Urinary tract obstruction: it's nothing to pee-nic about."