Urethral stenosis is a medical condition characterized by a blockage in the urethra, the tube which drains fluid from the bladder to the outside of the body. There are a number of different causes for this condition, and an assortment of treatments are available, depending on the root cause. Usually, this condition is diagnosed by a urologist, and he or she generally takes charge of the treatment plan as well.
The hallmark of urethral stenosis is difficulty urinating. People may experience pain or burning sensations when they try to urinate, or they may develop muscle spasms and twinges. Because of the increased strain caused by difficulty urinating, this condition can lead to secondary inflammations and infections, and sometimes the condition is discovered when people seek treatment for these secondary problems.
In some cases, urethral stenosis is congenital, meaning that someone was born with it. Cases of congenital urethral stenosis usually become apparent within a few years of birth, when a child seems to have difficulty urinating or has trouble with potty training. This sometimes requires surgical correction, to widen the ureter so that it is easier to urinate.
This condition can also arise in response to an inflammation or infection. Some sexually transmitted infections, for example, cause a constriction of the urethra. Growths of bacteria in the urethra can cause pain and burning when people attempt to urinate, or they can clog the ureter, making it difficult to urinate. Infections which affect the bladder and urinary tract are known as “cystitis,' and they can be quite dangerous if they reach the kidneys. Cysts in the urinary tract can also cause this condition, as can blockages like kidney stones or tumors.
When a patient presents with what appears to be urethral stenosis, many doctors like to start with a urine culture, to see if the problem is being caused by an infection. Doctors may also order a urogram, an image of the urinary tract, to look for blockages like stones and cysts or to check for congenital urethral stenosis. In the event that the cause of the blockage is an infection, antibiotics will often resolve the issue, along with anti-inflammatory drugs to make the patient more comfortable. Stones and cysts may indicate a need for surgery to correct the issue, while tumors typically require the use of radiation and chemotherapy in addition to surgery.