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Urethral Stricture

A urethral stricture happens when scar tissue builds up in the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body.

A stricture can partly block urine flow, causing pain, infection, and trouble peeing. Causes include trauma to the pelvic area, infections, and prior surgery.

Doctors can treat urethral stricture with surgery.

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To make an appointment with the Department of Urology, please contact a location near you

What Is a Urethral Stricture?

Aurethral strictureis a buildup of scar tissue in the urethra.

Urethral stricture is almost always an adult male problem. Because men have a longer urethra, they're more prone to scar tissue buildup.

The stricture — or narrowing — can happen anywhere between the bladder and the tip of the penis.

Urethral stricture causes

Often, doctors can't find an exact cause for urethral stricture.

Likely causes for scar tissue may include:

Urethral stricture risk factors and complications

Risk factors for urethral stricture include having:

  • An STI.
  • A catheter.
  • An enlarged prostate.
  • Prostate cancer.
  • An injury to the pelvic area.
  • Swelling of the urethra (urethritis).

If left untreated, aurethral stricture can lead to chronic UTIs. If your urethra becomes severely blocked, kidney damage can occur.

If you're completely unable to pee, you need to call 911 or go to the ER right away.

How to prevent urethral strictures

There's no sure way to prevent urethral strictures, but there are ways to reduce your chances of getting one.

  • Avoid injury to the pelvis and urethra.
  • If you insert your own catheter, use the smallest one you can for the shortest time.
  • Use condoms and avoid sex with infected partners. See a doctor right away to treat an STI.

Why choose the UPMC Department of Urology for urethral stricture care?

UPMC's urologic surgeons:

Urethral Stricture Symptoms and Diagnosis

You should see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms of urethral stricture:

  • A weak or slow urine stream.
  • Having to strain to pee.
  • Pain or irritation with urination.
  • Inability to fully empty the bladder.
  • Blood in your pee.
  • Blood in your semen.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Leaking pee.
  • UTIs.
  • Swelling of the penis.
  • Loss of bladder control.

Diagnosing urethral stricture

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and health history.

They'll give you a physical and may run tests such as:

  • An ultrasound or x-rays of the urethra.
  • Urethroscopy — a doctor will place a small, bendable scope into your urethra to look at the stricture.
  • Urethrogram — doctors will insert contrast dye into the urethra at both ends — the tip of the penis and the bladder. The dye will stop at the stricture so they can see its exact location on a special x-ray.

Urethral Stricture Treatment

A urethral stricture is highly treatable.

The UPMC Department of Urology has a team of urologic surgeons with expert training. They can tell you which treatment option is best for your case.

We most often treat urethral stricture with surgery. Your options will depend on the stricture's type, location, and length.

Surgery to treat urethral stricture

Your doctor may use one of the following procedures to treat your urethral stricture:

  • Urethral dilation — gradual stretching to widen the urethra in the spot of the stricture.
  • Urethrotomy — cutting the stricture with a laser or knife through a scope.
  • Urethroplasty — open surgery to remove the stricture. They may use grafts as a patch to repair or replace the damaged tissue.

Your recovery time will vary based on what type of procedure you had.

In some cases, the stricture may come back, and you'll need a repeat treatment.

Learn More

Urethral Stricture Overview with Dr. Paul J. Rusilko