Voiding Dysfunction | Urology | Loyola Medicine

Voiding Dysfunction

Overview and Facts about Voiding Dysfunction

Voiding dysfunction is a urology condition that is characterized by poor coordination between the bladder muscle, prostate (in males) and the urethra. The bladder is a hollow gland that is responsible for storing urine received from the kidneys. The urethra is responsible for releasing the urine stored in the bladder to the outside of the body (voiding or emptying the bladder, also called urination). In voiding dysfunction, the normal course of emptying of the bladder is compromised. Voiding dysfunction can affect men, women, and children.

Signs and Symptoms of Voiding Dysfunction

The most noticeable sign or symptoms of voiding dysfunction is difficulty emptying the bladder or urinating. This can be in the form of slow urination, dribbled urination, seemingly hesitant urine flow, or weak urine flow. Voiding dysfunction can also cause additional symptoms.

Other noticeable signs and symptoms associated with urine storage include:

  • Irritable bladder
  • Frequent urination
  • An urgent need to urinate
  • Straining to urinate
  • Getting up at night to use the bathroom

Causes and Risk Factors of Voiding Dysfunction

Causes and risk factors of voiding dysfunction can vary by gender and age. For example, in men, an enlarged prostate commonly leads to voiding dysfunction because the enlarged prostate could obstruct or interfere with normal urine flow. In women, voiding dysfunction can be caused by an underactive bladder. In children, voiding dysfunction can be caused by problems with potty training and/or not enough bathroom breaks.

Other general causes and risk factors include:

  • Abnormal urinating habits
  • Fear of urinating due to prior urinary tract infection
  • Weak pelvic floor
  • The presence of scar tissue in the bladder
  • Bladder stones
  • Bladder tumors or cancer
  • Bladder infection

Tests and Diagnosis of Voiding Dysfunction

Voiding dysfunction is determined by observing the time, frequency, and effort required to urinate (called a bladder diary). A physical exam of the abdomen and/or pelvis is also performed to observe the size and fullness of the bladder.

The causes of voiding dysfunction, however, are also determined during diagnosis. For example, a urinalysis and blood test are performed to determine if a bladder infection is present. In cases where bladder stones or tumors (cancerous and non-cancerous) are suspected, diagnostic imaging is performed.

Diagnostic imaging techniques include:

Treatment and Care for Voiding Dysfunction

Voiding dysfunction is treated after determining the cause of it. If a bladder infection is identified as the cause of the voiding dysfunction, antibiotics are administered to rid the bladder of the infection. Medications, including muscarinic receptor agonists (e.g., bethanechol) or cholinesterase inhibitors (e.g., distigmine), are also used to treat the condition. In cases where voiding dysfunction is caused by blockage of the urethra, surgery may be required.