What is a urethral stricture?

Urethral stricture is a narrowing of the urethra. The urethra is the canal that carries urine from the bladder through the penis and out the urethral meatus (the opening at the tip of the penis) during urination.

What causes urethral stricture?

The most common cause appears to be chronic inflammation or the development of scar tissue. Scar tissue can gradually form from:

  • An injury to the penis or scrotum or a straddle injury.
  • An infection, most often sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia.
  • Placement of catheters or instruments used by urologists during surgery or procedures to examine the urethra and bladder.

The scar tissue causes the urethra to become gradually narrow, making it more difficult for urine to flow. Sometimes, the inflammation/injury to the urethra happens long before the stricture becomes noticeable. In other cases, the stricture happens soon after a urethral injury.

What problems does urethral stricture cause?

Many men with a stricture will have increasing discomfort that comes from difficulty in urinating and the holding of urine. In others, the problem will show up suddenly and without prior difficulty, requiring immediate care.

If you have a decreased stream of urine or dribbling and these symptoms are getting progressively worse, see your doctor.

What are the symptoms of urethral stricture?

The most obvious sign of urethral stricture is a weakened urinary system. This is noted by some of these symptoms:

Some patients with severe urethral strictures are completely unable to urinate. This is referred to as acute urinary retention, and is a medical emergency. Hydronephrosis and renal failure may also occur.

A urethral stricture can cause enlargement and inflammation of the prostate. The urethra is surrounded by the prostate just under the bladder. This can lead to inflammation/infection of the prostate, known as prostatitis. Prostatitis is a complicated urinary tract infection. It is treatable with antibiotics and definitive treatment of the urethral stricture.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/23/2014.


  • Wong SS, Aboumarzouk OM, Narahari R, O‚ÄôRiordan A, Pickard R. Simple urethral dilatation, endoscopic urethrotomy, and urethroplasty for urethral stricture disease in adult men. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012; Dec 12;12:CD006934. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006934.pub3.
  • Luman N, Oosterlimck W, Hoebeke P. Urethral reconstruction using buccal mucosa or penile skin grafts: systematic review and meta-analysis. Urol Int 2012;89:387-394.
  • Mundy AR. Management of urethral strictures. Postgrad Med 2006;82:489-493.

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