Acute urinary retention, or suddenly being unable to empty the bladder, typically causes a strong urge to urinate but no urine stream, severe discomfort and swelling in the lower abdomen, states MedicineNet. Chronic, or long-term, urinary retention usually causes symptoms that are less severe but occur more frequently.
A person with chronic urinary retention typically has mild, constant, lower-abdominal discomfort; difficulty starting urination; and a weak urine stream, according to MedicineNet. Frequent urination and the sensation of needing to urinate immediately after relieving oneself are common as well.
Urinary retention is most common in men in their 50s and 60s due to obstruction of urine flow by an enlarged prostate. In women, it is often the result of a bladder that has moved out of its normal position, a condition known as a cystocele, explains MedicineNet. Other causes of urinary retention include nerve diseases, nerve damage due to trauma and the side effects of some medications.