What causes decreased urine output? 26 possible conditions

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What Is Decreased Urine Output?

Oliguria is the medical term for a decreased output of urine. This is clinically defined as an output of below 400 millilitres (~16 ounces) of urine over the course of 24 hours.

If you are still urinating in any amount, you are experiencing oliguria. On the other hand, the complete absence of urine is known as anuria and is defined as an output of less than 50 millilitres in a 24-hour period.

What Causes a Decreased Urine Output?

Many things can cause oliguria, or a decreased urine output. These range from temporary conditions to more serious illnesses.


Dehydration is the most common cause of decreased urine output. Typically, dehydration occurs when you are ill with diarrhea, fever, or another sickness and cannot replace the fluids that you are losing and your kidneys retain as much fluid as possible.


Infection is a less typical cause of oliguria. A severe infection can lead the body to go into shock, which reduces the blood flow to your organs. Shock is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.

Urinary Tract Obstruction

A urinary tract obstruction, or blockage, occurs when urine cannot leave your kidneys. This can affect one or both kidneys and usually results in a decreased urine output. A blockage can also cause other symptoms, such as body pain, nausea, vomiting, swelling, and fever.


Some medications may cause you to release less urine. Medicines that are known to possibly cause this condition include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), high blood pressure medications (ACE inhibitors), and gentamicin (a type of antibiotic).

If your medication is causing you to release less urine, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor. He or she may change your medication or adjust your current dosage. Never change your dosage or stop taking a medication without first consulting your doctor.

When to Seek Medical Care

You should always alert your doctor to your condition if you experience decreased urine output.

You should seek emergency attention if you feel that your body may be going into shock. This could be due to a serious infection or trauma that needs quick medical treatment.

You should also seek immediate medical help if you think your urinary tract may be blocked by an enlarged prostate or other condition. This can quickly develop into anuria, which will require immediate treatment to prevent serious damage to the kidneys.

Call your doctor right away if you have a decreased urine output along with:

  • dizziness
  • rapid pulse
  • light-headedness

How Is a Decreased Urine Output Treated?

There are no self-treatment options for a decreased urine output. Medical attention is always required to identify the cause and provide the most appropriate treatment.

During your appointment, your doctor will ask you a number of questions before making a diagnosis. He or she will probably want to know when the decreased output began, whether it occurred suddenly, and if it has gotten any worse since it started.

It may help if you know approximately how much you drink each day, whether drinking more increases your urine output, and how much urine you produce each day.

The doctor may need you give a urine sample (or at least try). The sample will be analyzed for its color, protein, and uric acid levels and tested for infection.

Make sure to tell your doctor about any other symptoms that you have, any medications or herbal supplements that you take, and whether you have a history of problems with your kidneys or bladder.

Once your doctor has spoken to you, he or she may require additional tests. These could include:

  • blood tests
  • CT scans
  • abdominal ultrasounds
  • renal scans

Your treatment will depend on the cause of your oliguria. Your doctor may prescribe an IV drip that quickly rehydrates your body or dialysis to help remove toxins until your kidneys can work correctly again.

What Is the Outcome of Untreated Decreased Urine Output?

The outcome for oliguria depends on the cause. Most cases require medical treatment and will only worsen without it.

Left untreated, it is possible that decreased urine output can cause cardiovascular complications, such as hypertension or heart failure, anaemia, platelet dysfunction, and gastrointestinal problems.

How Can Decreased Urine Output Be Prevented?

In general, when decreased urine output is caused by a medical condition, it cannot be prevented. However, the most common cause of this symptom is dehydration, which can be avoided by ensuring that you remain hydrated at all times. Be sure to increase your fluid intake whenever you have a fever, diarrhea, or other sickness. You may also want to use special drink mixes to replace any electrolytes lost during this time and prevent oliguria.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Cardiogenic Shock

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Cardiogenic shock is a rare condition in which the heart is so damaged that it is unable to supply sufficient blood to bodily organs. Sweating and cold extremities are potential signs of this condition.

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End-Stage Kidney Disease

End-stage kidney disease is the final stage of kidney disease. Signs include an inability to urinate, headache, change in skin color, excessive thirst, and swelling in the legs and hands.

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Hypovolemic Shock

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Hypovolemic shock is a life-threatening condition that results when you lose more than 20 percent (one-fifth) of your body's blood or fluid supply. This severe fluid loss makes it impossible for the heart to pum...

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Septic Shock

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Septic shock is a complication of an infection in which toxins can initiate a full-body inflammatory response and organ failure. Confusion, breathing problems, chills, and cold sweats.

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Bleeding Esophageal Varices

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Bleeding esophageal varices occur when swollen veins in your lower esophagus rupture and bleed due to excess pressure. This condition is a medical emergency and must be dealt with promptly.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you drink. The most common cause of water loss from the body is excessive sweating. Headaches, dizziness, and decreased urination are symptoms.

Read more »


High Blood Pressure Overview

High blood pressure (hypertension) increases your risk for heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease, and other serious health problems. Left untreated, high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and vital organs.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

One life-threatening complication of infection is sepsis, which often occurs in people who are elderly or have weak immune systems. Patches of discolored skin is a symptom of severe sepsis.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Peritonitis is the inflammation of a thin layer of tissue inside the abdomen. Caused by bacteria or fungus, it causes tenderness, bloating, fatigue, greying of the skin, and other problems.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Septicemia is bacterial infection spread through the entire vascular system of the body. If untreated, it can result in sepsis, a life-threatening inflammation. A main symptom is blue lips or finger nails.

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Ischemic Cardiomyopathy

Ischemic cardiomyopathy (IC) is a condition that occurs when the heart muscle is weakened. In this condition, the left ventricle, which is the main heart muscle, is usually enlarged and dilated. This condition can be ...

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Cirrhosis is severe scarring of the liver and poor liver function seen at the end of chronic liver disease. The scarring is most often caused by long-term exposure to toxins such as alcohol or viral infections. Th...

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The glomeruli are structures in your kidneys made up of tiny blood vessels. These knots of vessels help filter blood and remove excess fluid. If your glomeruli are damaged, your kidneys will stop longer work properly...

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Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic condition that affects the chambers of your heart. You have four heart chambers: two atria in the upper half of the heart and two ventricles in the lower half. Th...

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Toxic Megacolon

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

The large intestine is the last section of your digestive tract and includes your appendix, colon, and rectum. The large intestine completes the digestion process by absorbing water and passing waste through to th...

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Urethral Stricture

Urethral stricture is a medical condition that mainly affects men. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), very few women get urethral strictures. In addition, very few individuals are born with thi...

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Obstructive Uropathy

Obstructive uropathy is a condition in which your urine flow reverses direction. Instead of flowing from the kidneys to the bladder, the urine "refluxes" back into the kidneys. Reflux literally means "a flowing back o...

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Goodpasture syndrome

Goodpasture syndrome is a rare and potentially life-threatening autoimmune disease. It occurs when the immune system attacks the walls of the lungs and the tiny filtering units in the kidneys. The disorder is name...

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The Deadly Potential of Digitalis: Digitalis Toxicity

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Digitalis toxicity (DT) occurs when you take too much digitalis (also known as digoxin or digitoxin), a medication used to treat heart conditions. Signs of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, and an irregular heartbeat...

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Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. It is a rare condition that can be caused by any number of autoimmune diseases, viral, bacterial, or fungal infections, or parasites. When you have an infection or a...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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