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When you use the term “penis clog,” you’re most likely describing a condition known as urethral stricture. This is a more medically accurate explanation of what might be causing your symptoms.

A urethral stricture is a narrowing of the tube that carries urine and semen through the penis and out of the body.

An injury to the urethra, or an infection or other medical problem, can cause scar tissue to form inside the urethra, restricting the flow of urine and semen. This type of penis clog or stricture is usually treatable with surgical and nonsurgical procedures.

Keep reading to learn more about this condition, including symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

In people of all sexes, the urethra is the thin tube through which the bladder empties itself of urine. When a person with a penis ejaculates, semen also travels through the urethra. The urethra in a person with a penis is much longer than it is in a person with a vulva. As a result, the risk of urethral problems is much higher if you have a penis than if you have a vulva.

A penis clog, or urethral stricture, develops when inflammation or injury irritates the inner lining of the urethra. This causes scar tissue to form, narrowing the opening through which urine flows. The result is that you may feel as though your penis is clogged. Urethral stricture may form soon after an injury, such as a fractured pelvis, or it may take months before any symptoms develop.

Urethral stricture may affect only a short section of the urethra or a much longer portion. The location and length of the urethral stricture will affect your treatment options and symptoms.

When the usual, healthy flow of urine is diminished by a urethral stricture, some of the following symptoms can develop:

  • slow, reduced urine stream
  • painful urination
  • incontinence
  • dark urine
  • blood in the urine
  • abdominal pain
  • swelling of the penis

A penis clog can occur anywhere along the urethra. Among the more common causes of urethral stricture are:

  • injury to the urethra, sometimes caused by blunt trauma, such as a bad fall or an injury that pierces the urethra
  • infection, such a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • irritation caused by the placement of catheters within the urethra, or endoscopic procedures such as cystoscopy

In many cases, no specific cause of urethral stricture can be identified.

Your doctor will determine the right treatment approach for urethral stricture based on the severity of the problem and the size of the stricture. For example, they may treat a short stricture with either a urethral dilation or an internal urethrotomy. Urethral reconstruction, a surgical procedure, may be used for longer strictures.

Urethral dilation

Urethral dilation starts with the placement of a very thin guide wire into the urethra. After that, increasingly wider wires, called dilators, are threaded over the guide wire to stretch out the sides of the urethra.

A 2019 study in the American Journal of Clinical and Experimental Urology suggests that guide wire urethral dilation is a safe approach that limits the risk of incontinence, particularly when used to treat a short stricture.

Internal urethrotomy

During an internal urethrotomy, your surgeon will first insert a scope into the urethra so they can see the stricture. Then, they’ll use a small, sharp surgical instrument, called an endoscopic scalpel, to cut the stricture open. They’ll do this in one or two places to increase the diameter of your urethra. Typically, they’ll also place in a urethral catheter after the procedure. The catheter encourages the stricture to heal in the newly widened configuration.

Urethral reconstruction (urethroplasty)

A third treatment option is urethral reconstruction, also called urethroplasty. This is a surgical procedure that involves removing the constricted portion of the urethra and reattaching the healthy portions of the tube. This approach is typically taken when longer sections of the urethra have been affected.

There are two types of urethroplasty:

  • Primary anastomotic urethroplasty. In this type of urethroplasty, your surgeon will cut out the diseased section that’s causing the stricture and reattach the healthy ends. They’ll usually perform this procedure for short segment strictures.
  • Incision and grafting, or ventral onlay grafting. This type of urethroplasty is generally reserved for longer segments of stricture. In this procedure, your surgeon will cut open the stricture on the bottom side. Then, they’ll use a piece of tissue to enlarge the diameter of the urethra. The tissue usually comes from the inner cheek, called the buccal mucosa.

Strictures that return more than once after treatment should be evaluated by a reconstructive specialist. They may recommend a more formal repair of the stricture.

If you notice that urinating has become painful, or you’re finding it more difficult to empty your bladder, visit a doctor soon. It could be urethral stricture or any number of other conditions, such as kidney stones or an enlarged prostate. Other urinary changes, such as blood in your urine or new incontinence, also prompt a doctor’s evaluation.

It’s important to pay attention to urethral stricture symptoms and discuss them soon with a doctor. If urine backs up in the body, there’s an increased risk of urinary tract infections involving the bladder or even a kidney. This can lead to potentially severe health complications. However, such infections are often effectively treated with antibiotics.

A urethral stricture can also cause inflammation of the prostate, known as prostatitis. Prostatitis can also be treated with antibiotics and other medications and therapies.

The medical term for a penis clog is a urethral stricture. A urethral stricture can make it difficult to urinate. Fortunately, doctors can usually treat this condition successfully. In some cases, a catheter-based procedure is sufficient, but if the stricture is longer, a surgical solution may be necessary.

Keep in mind that urethral stricture can return, so work closely with your doctor — a urologist, if possible — to monitor and maintain the health of your urethra. Taking steps to lower your risk of pelvic injuries and infections will also help.