Urinary Retention

August 19, 2012

Urinary retention is a common disorder that affects people starting around age 50, more often men than women. Common causes include benign prostatic hypertrophy, prostatitis, detrusor sphincter dyssynergia, neurogenic bladder, and iatrogenic urinary retention (caused by a medication or medical procedure).

Symptoms may manifest as weak urinary stream with intermittent flow, a sense of incomplete voiding, and urinary hesitancy (a delay between trying to urinate and urinary flow actually starting). Patients may have a sense of distention, pressure, or pain in the lower abdomen. Incontinence, or an inability to hold one's urine, can happen when people laugh, cough, or even when they are not doing anything. As the disease progresses, patients are unable to urinate. Catheterization, or insertion of a tube into the bladder through the urethra to allow the passage of urine, has become their daily routine.

In traditional Chinese medical clinic, I have experienced that TCM can help and works well with urinary retention. Bladder Qi dysfunction is the root of this problem. There are three main causes leading to bladder Qi dysfunction. 1. Kidney Yang Qi deficiency. 2. Damp-heat stagnation. 3. Traumatic injury to the lower abdomen. The best TCM results come from a combination of acupuncture plus herbs. Here are two case studies in which TCM helped patients.

Case 1

Mr. D.R. was 66 years old. He has been experiencing urinary symptoms for years. Symptoms have become more severe for last two years. He had not been able to pass urine by himself. Therefore, he has to depend on catheterization twice a day. He was diagnosed with benign prostatic hypertrophy. His sexual function was also affected because he developed impotence. His complexion was pale and he often felt fatigued. His tongue was pale with a white coat. Pulses were deep, slow, and uneven. This was a typical case of kidney Yang qi deficiency with damp-cold stagnation. I applied a combination of acupuncture and herbal remedy to tonify kidney Yang qi and disperse the damp-cold. One week later, he started to pass some urine by himself. One month later, he reduced self-catheterization to once daily. His energy and complexion had improved notably. During the second month of TCM therapy, he was able to skip using catheters for 3-5 days at a time without problems. Three months after the initial visit, he reported he had not used catheters for the whole month!

Case 2

Ms. K. M. was 65 years old. She suffered from urinary retention and been unable to pass urine by herself for last 7 months. Medical doctor diagnosed her with neurogenic bladder. In order to empty her bladder, she had to self-catheterize 3 times a day. Meanwhile, she complained of a burning pain in her lower back and a tingling sensation in her hands and feet. Her tongue was red with a yellow coat. Pulses were wiry. The above conditions revealed that she had damp-heat stagnation and kidney Yin deficiency. The principles of treatment were cleansing damp-heat and nourishing kidney Yin. Both acupuncture and herbal formulas were chosen as the mode of therapy. After two visits, she was able to eliminate some urine, consequently, catheterization had been reduced to twice a day, but she still sensed that her bladder wasn't empty. Six weeks after initial visit, she was using catheter once every other day. Eight weeks later, she was able to skip the catheter for whole week. The burning pain in her lower back had become less intense and the tingling sensation in her hands and feet had gone away. After three and a half months of TCM therapy, her urinalysis was normal and she no longer needed to self-catheterize. She has continued TCM maintenance therapy for three and a half years. She was very happy with the results.