Urethral strictures are scar tissue that contracts and narrows the urethra, subsequently blocking urine from flowing out of the bladder.
Common causes of strictures include inflammation, infections, trauma, prior surgery and chronic urethral catheter placement. Symptoms can include blood in the urine, slow urine stream, burning or pain with urination, spraying, urinary tract infections, decreased urine output, incomplete emptying and straining to urinate. Strictures can lead to larger complications such as urinary tract infection, bladder inflammation and muscle damage, prostatitis, bladder stones and urethral cancer.
Identifying strictures early is important to avoid serious kidney or bladder problems. Strictures can be found in a physical exam, through urethra imaging with X-rays or a cystoscopy—a procedure in which a small, fiber-optic camera is placed into the urethra after topical anesthesia to visualize any damage.