What is a urethral diverticulum?

The urethra is the tube through which urine leaves the bladder and exits the body when a person urinates. The tube is only about 4 cm long in women. A condition known as urethral diverticulum (UD) occurs when an unwanted pocket or sac forms along the urethra. Because of its location, it can become filled with urine or even pus. This can lead to infections and other problems.

Is a urethral diverticulum a common condition?

No, it is rare, although it is being diagnosed more often today. This may be because doctors now have better imaging techniques available to explore the problem when patients report pain in this part of the body. Still, it is believed that some cases are not properly diagnosed because the condition is so rare, and the doctor does not always think of it. UDs are seen most often in women between the ages of 30 and 60.

What causes a urethral diverticulum?

The cause is not always known. There seems to be a link between UDs and multiple bladder infections, which may weaken the urethra wall. A block in the glands near the urethra also may be to blame. Some studies indicate that a birth defect might be involved as well.

What are the symptoms of a urethral diverticulum?

Many women with a UD feel discomfort in their pelvic area from the mass. They also may:

  • Have frequent urinary tract infections
  • Have urinary incontinence (such as leaking a small amount of urine when they cough or sneeze)
  • Have pain on urination
  • Have a frequent urgent need to urinate
  • Wake up at night to urinate
  • Have blood in their urine
  • Experience “leaking” after urinating
  • Have pain during sexual intercourse

Importantly, symptoms may come and go. About 20% of patients with a UD do not report having any symptoms at all.

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