Urethral Strictures

What are Urethral Strictures?

Urethral strictures are a narrowing of the urethral canal, the tube-like organ that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. These occur when the normal elasticity of the urethra is lost as a result of inflammation, trauma, infection, or some other cause. Urethral strictures are most common in men, but they can also affect women.

Symptoms of Urethral Strictures

Signs and symptoms of urethral strictures can include:

  • Painful urination (dysuria)
  • Decreased urinary stream
  • Frequent urination
  • Inability to hold urine (incontinence)
  • The feeling that the bladder is not completely emptied

Diagnosis of Urethral Strictures

The diagnosis of a urethral stricture typically begins with a physical exam and a review of symptoms. Additionally, imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, might be recommended. Cystoscopy is the most reliable method for diagnosing urethral strictures.

Treatment Options for Urethral Strictures

Treatment of urethral strictures depends on the size and location of the narrowing. In most cases, the treatment involves one of the following:

  • dilation – enlarging the stricture with a special instrument called a dilation catheter
  • urethrotomy – cutting the stricture open with a special scissor-like instrument
  • open surgery – making an incision in the stricture and widening it
  • stent placement – placing a small tube-like device inside the urethra to keep it open

Urethral Stricture Prevention

Certain measures can reduce the risk of developing a urethral stricture. These preventive measures include:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Urinating soon after sexual intercourse to reduce the risk of UTIs
  • Avoiding irritants, such as perfumed bubble bath and douches
  • Avoiding the use of catheters, as they increase the risk of infection