Tools and Resources

Bladder outlet obstruction: Causes in men?

My doctor says I may have bladder outlet obstruction. What does that mean?

Bladder outlet obstruction in men is a blockage that slows or stops urine flow out of the bladder.

Chronic bladder outlet obstruction causes urine to back up in your system, leading to difficulty urinating and other bothersome urinary symptoms. If it isn't treated, bladder outlet obstruction can lead to bladder stones, infection and damage to the bladder and kidneys.

There are a number of possible underlying causes of bladder outlet obstruction, including:

  • Enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) this is a common cause of bladder outlet obstruction in men
  • Bladder stones
  • Certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants or drugs to treat overactive bladder
  • Scarring of the urinary channel (urethra) or bladder neck, as a result of injury or surgery
  • Prostate cancer

Treatment options are based on the underlying cause of bladder outlet obstruction. If the cause is unclear, your doctor will take some steps to help determine the origin of your symptoms. Your doctor or other medical professional may:

  • Perform a physical examination. This may include a digital rectal examination. During this test, your doctor will insert a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum. This allows your doctor feel the surface of your prostate gland to look for signs of prostate enlargement or prostate cancer.
  • Conduct a bladder ultrasound. This can help determine how much urine remains in your bladder after you urinate.
  • Use a visual scope to look inside your urinary system (cystoscopy). This allows the doctor to examine your prostate, urinary channel (urethra) and bladder for signs of problems.
  • Do other tests, such as blood tests or tests to measure urine flow.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of bladder outlet obstruction is important to prevent serious problems caused by urine backing up into your system.

  • Seek emergency treatment if you can't pass any urine and it feels like you have to. In the emergency room, a tube (catheter) will be inserted through the tip of your penis and into your bladder to drain urine.
  • Go to the doctor if you can still urinate but have other signs or symptoms of bladder outlet obstruction especially if your symptoms are accompanied by fever and chills.
Updated: 7/15/2011

© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "EmbodyHealth," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Legal restrictions and terms of use applicable to content provided to this site by MayoClinic.com/Mayo Clinic Health Information. Use thereof signifies your agreement to these terms of use.