What could be the cause of my difficulty in getting my flow of urine to start?

Halemitchell asked...

I am having difficulty getting my flow of urine to start and am unable to empy my bladder completely. This is an everyday occurance and even when my bladder is full and the urgency to urinate is great. I cannot get the flow to start unless I run water, flush the toilet or sit there for several minutes (up to 15 mins at times) for it to begin. I do not have any pain or burning or odors or is my urine not normal looking as my urine is usually very light color if not close to being clear. This is frustrating as being uncomfortable. I have spoken to my doctor regarding this and she said to keep running the water when I have to use the rest room and due to not having health insurance has not ordered any tests due to the cost . What could be the problem and what can I do to solve it? Thank you.

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

From your question, I cannot tell if you are a male or female, so I will address both sexes in my answer.

If you are a male, it is common for the flow of urine to become a problem as you age.  This is usually caused by an enlarged prostate, or BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy).  This basically means your prostate gland enlarges, obstructing the flow of urine.  Medications can greatly reduce symptoms, and they are usually tolerated well by patients.  In your case, it sounds as if the urine flow is really impaired, so I do think you should see a urologist.  Not being able to empty your bladder can lead to many other problems, so I would scedule this visit soon.  If you cannot afford to see a urologist, then speak to your doctor now about how this problem is really uncomfortable and effecting your life.  Perhaps she can start the evaluation of this problem for you.  I do not think you should ignore it any longer, as this problem could become worse.  You absolutely need some testing (a PSA level, post void urine test at least), which are really not expensive and can be ordered by your doctor's office.

If you are a female, this issue becomes a little more complicated. I would recommend a full pelvic exam to see why you cannot empty your bladder.  Sometimes, female organs can prolapse out of the vagina, causing the feeling of tremendous urgency,  Organ prolapse can also cause the urine to not flow out of the bladder well.  Women can also have nerve problems in the bladder that cause the bladder muscle to not be able to squish the urine out adequately.  Again, this would best be evaluated by a gynecologist (especially someone with a urology background).  I would do this soon, as this is not a typical problem for women.