A urethral stricture is a medical condition that mainly affects men. It involves an abnormal narrowing of the urethra- the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder. A stricture blocks the flow of urine from the bladder, in turn causing constriction of the urethra and a number of problems such as inflammation or infection.
Treatment options for urethral stricture typically depend on the location and length of the stricture. The main focus is to widen narrowed sections of the urethra. Nonsurgical procedures involve cystoscopy and permanent catheter placement, while in more severe cases; surgery may be required to remove diseased tissue and rebuild the urethra.
Signs and symptoms of urethral stricture include the following:
- Decreased volume of urine
- Painful urination
- Discharge from the urethra
- Blood in the semen
- Bloody or dark colored urine
- Loss of bladder control
- Pain in the pelvic or lower abdominal area
- Swelling of the penis
- Urinary tract infections
Urethral stricture involves constriction of the urethra, typically caused by inflammation or scar tissue from surgery, infection or injury. It can lead to several complications in an individual’s body, including urinary retention and permanent bladder or kidney disease.
- Injury or damage to the urethra can be caused by: Certain medical procedures, radiotherapy treatment, and a sudden fall.
- Infection of the urethra can be caused by: Sexually transmitted infections, infection from complications of procedures that involve the insertion of a catheter, infection causing inflammation in the tissues in and around the urethra.
Several factors that increase the risk of urethral stricture include the following:
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Urethritis (swelling and irritation in the urethra)
- Injury to the pelvic area
- Procedures involving the use of a catheter or cystoscope
- Surgery performed on the prostate
- Radiotherapy treatment
Possible complications that can arise from urethral stricture include the following:
- Urinary retention: Complete block of urine flow
- Permanent bladder or kidney disease (due to blockage of urine)
- Recurrent urinary infections
Treatment options for urethral stricture depend on the location and length of the stricture. If the narrowed area is short and not near the muscles that control the exit from the bladder, nonsurgical methods can be applied. These include:
- Antibiotic therapy: A long term use of antibiotics that can help prevent urine infections until a stricture has been widened.
- Cystoscopy: A procedure that involves the insertion of a thin instrument into the urethra to help widen and stretch it out.
- Permanent catheter placement: A procedure that involves the insertion of a catheter into the bladder, to help drain urine through the abdomen.
In more severe cases, surgery may be required. Surgical procedures include:
- Urethroplasty: A surgical procedure that involves the removal of diseased tissue and reconstruction of the urethra.
Even though urethral stricture is not a preventable condition, in some cases where it is caused by sexually transmitted diseases, practicing safer-sex (the use of condoms) can reduce the risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases and urethral stricture. However, injuries and other medical conditions associated with urethral stricture can not always be avoided.
Treatment is vital in order to prevent further kidney or bladder complications.