What is a urethral stricture?

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

Many men with a stricture will have increasing discomfort with urinating and a slowing of the urinary stream. This can develop gradually and lead to pushing or straining to get urine out. In others, the problem will show up suddenly and without prior difficulty, requiring immediate care.

What causes urethral stricture?

The most common causes appear to be chronic inflammation or injury. Scar tissue can gradually form from:

  • An injury to your penis or scrotum or a straddle injury to the scrotum or perineum.
  • An infection, most often sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia.
  • Placement of catheters or instruments into the urethra during surgery or procedures.

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

What are the symptoms of urethral stricture?

The most obvious sign of urethral stricture is a weakened urinary system. Symptoms of this can include:

  • Straining to urinate.
  • Pain during urination.
  • Urinary tract infection.
  • Prostatitis.

Some patients with severe urethral strictures are completely unable to urinate. This is referred to as urinary retention, and is a medical emergency. Hydronephrosis and renal failure may also happen from backup of urine into the kidneys from a poorly draining bladder.

A urethral stricture can also cause inflammation of the prostate. Your urethra is surrounded by the prostate, just under the bladder. This inflammation of the prostate is known as prostatitis. Urinary backup can also cause complicated urinary tract infections. These can be managed with antibiotics and treatment of the urethral stricture.

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