Urethral Stricture Disease
Urethral stricture disease refers to the narrowing of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. This narrowing can restrict the flow of urine and cause a range of urinary symptoms. Urethral strictures can occur at any point along the length of the urethra, from the bladder to the external opening (meatus) of the penis.
Urethral strictures can have various causes, including:
- Trauma: Injuries to the pelvic region, such as pelvic fractures or catheterization, can lead to scar tissue formation and narrowing of the urethra.
- Infections: Repeated urinary tract infections or sexually transmitted infections can cause inflammation and scarring, leading to strictures.
- Surgical Procedures: Prior surgeries involving the urethra can sometimes result in scar tissue formation and strictures.
- Idiopathic: In some cases, the exact cause of a stricture is unknown.
Symptoms of urethral stricture disease can vary based on the severity and location of the stricture. Common symptoms include:
- Difficulty Urinating: Decreased urine flow or a weak urinary stream.
- Urgency and Frequency: Feeling the need to urinate frequently or urgently.
- Incomplete Emptying: A sensation that the bladder isn’t completely emptied after urination.
- Spraying or Splitting Stream: The urine stream might split or spray due to the narrowed opening.
- Urinary Retention: Difficulty starting or completely emptying the bladder.
- Urinary Tract Infections: Frequent infections due to urine retention and incomplete emptying.
Diagnosis of urethral stricture disease involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests. Common diagnostic methods include:
- Uroflowmetry: A test that measures the flow rate and characteristics of urine during urination.
- Cystoscopy: A procedure in which a thin tube with a camera (cystoscope) is inserted through the urethra to visualize the stricture.
- Imaging Studies: X-rays, ultrasounds, and urethrography can provide detailed images of the urethra and the extent of the stricture.
Treatment of urethral stricture disease depends on the severity, location, and cause of the stricture. Options include:
- Dilation: Gradually widening the urethra using special instruments. This is often temporary and might need to be repeated.
- Urethrotomy: Using a surgical instrument to cut or incise the stricture to improve urine flow. This might also need to be repeated.
- Urethroplasty: Surgical reconstruction of the urethra to remove the stricture and reconstruct the normal tube.
- Stent Placement: Inserting a temporary or permanent stent to keep the urethra open.
The prognosis for urethral stricture disease depends on factors like the length and location of the stricture, the underlying cause, and the effectiveness of the chosen treatment. With appropriate management, many individuals experience improved urinary function and symptom relief.
If you suspect you have urethral stricture disease or are experiencing urinary symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention. A urologist or a healthcare provider with expertise in urologic conditions can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options based on the individual’s specific situation.