What causes pain in urethra? 21 possible conditions

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The urethra is the tube that drains urine from the bladder. In men, the urethra is a long tube located inside the penis. In women, it is shorter and located inside the pelvis. Pain in the urethra may be dull or sharp, constant or intermittent (meaning it comes and goes). New onset of pain is called acute. When the pain continues for a long period of time, it is considered to be chronic.

Problems in the urethra can occur due to injury, tissue damage, infection, illness, or aging.

Causes of Pain in Urethra

Irritation temporarily may cause pain in your urethra. Sources of irritation include:

  • bubble baths
  • chemotherapy
  • condoms
  • contraceptive gels
  • douches or feminine hygiene products
  • injury due to a blow to the pelvic area
  • radiation exposure
  • scented or harsh soaps
  • sexual activity

In most cases, avoiding irritants will alleviate the pain.

Pain in the urethra can also be a symptom of a wide variety of underlying medical conditions, including:

  • bacterial or viral infection
  • benign enlargement of prostate (BPH)
  • bladder cancer
  • bladder infection
  • chlamydia
  • epididymitis
  • gonorrhea
  • inflammation of the prostate
  • kidney infection
  • kidney stones
  • low neutrophil count
  • malignant neoplasm of ureter
  • narrowing of the urethra
  • non-bacterial prostate inflammation
  • orchitis
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis
  • prostate cancer
  • pyelonephritis
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • urethral stricture
  • urethritis
  • urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • urinary tract obstruction
  • vaginal yeast infection
  • vulvovaginitis

Accompanying Symptoms

You will need to be able to describe your pain accurately in order to assist the doctor in diagnosing your problem. Symptoms that can accompany pain in the urethra include:

  • itching
  • inability to urinate
  • frequent, urgent need to urinate
  • burning sensation during urination
  • blood in urine or semen
  • unusual discharge
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • fever and chills

Seek medical attention if you experience one or more of these symptoms along with pain in your urethra.

Depending on your symptoms, a variety of diagnostic tests may be ordered. In most cases, once the diagnosis is made, treatment will usually resolve the pain.

Diagnosing Pain in Urethra

Diagnosis will require a complete history and physical, including palpating (feeling) the abdomen for tenderness. For women, a pelvic examination may be necessary. It is likely that your doctor will also order a urinalysis and urine culture.

Depending on your symptoms and the results of your physical, additional tests that may help your doctor reach a diagnosis include:

  • computed tomography (CT) scan
  • cystoscopy
  • kidney and bladder ultrasound
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • radionuclide scan
  • tests for sexually transmitted diseases
  • urodynamics
  • voiding cystourethrogram

Treatment for Pain in Urethra

Treatment will depend entirely on the diagnosis. If the diagnosis is infection, an appropriate course of antibiotics will be given. Drinking plenty of fluids and frequent urination may help speed your recovery. Other medications may include:

  • pain relievers
  • antispasmodics to control muscle spasms in the bladder
  • alpha-blocking drugs to relax muscle tone

If an irritant caused your pain, you will be advised to avoid it in the future. Surgery can be an effective treatment for narrowing of the urethra.

Treatment of underlying conditions usually results in relief of pain.

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



Urethritis is an infection of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder and semen out of the body. Symptoms include burning while urinating, abdominal pain, and discharge.

Read more »


Obstructive Uropathy

Obstructive uropathy is a condition in which your urine flow is blocked, and backs up into the kidneys. IIt may be caused by a blockage in one of the ureters - the tube that channels urine between the bladder and th...

Read more »


Urinary Tract Infection

UTIs are usually caused by bacteria and can occur in any part of the urinary tract. Symptoms of upper UTIs include pain in the upper back, chills, fever, and nausea.

Read more »


Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are solid masses of crystalized calcium or other substances that originate in the kidneys but can pass through the urinary tract. The greatest risk factor is making less than one liter of urine per day.

Read more »


Benign Enlargement of Prostate

Benign enlargement of the prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia, is a common condition where the prostate gland swells beyond normal size. It is a normal condition of male aging but can interfere with urination.

Read more »



Gonnorhea is a sexually transmitted disease that affects warm, moist areas of the body. Early symptoms include pain when urinating and discharge.

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Urethral Stricture

The urethra is a tube that helps expel urine from body. When the urethra narrows, it's known as a urethral stricture. Abdominal pain, urge to urinate, and swelling are signs.

Read more »


Postmenopausal Atrophic Vaginitis

Postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis normally occurs after menopause. The condition can lead to increased vaginal infections and may make sexual intercourse painful.

Read more »



Volvovaginitis is a common infection of the vulva and vagina. Symptoms may include itching, discomfort while urinating, or increased vaginal dischrge.

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Vaginal Yeast Infection

A vaginal yeast infection is a common female condition caused by the fungus candida. Symptoms include intense itching, swelling, and irritation.

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Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland, a common condition in adult males. It is often caused by infection.

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Orchitis is the inflammation of the testicles. It can be caused by either bacterial or viral infection. Both testicles may be affected by orchitis at the same time. However, symptoms are restricted to just one testicl...

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Chlamydia Infection

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that should be treated quickly in order to avoid complications. It is caused by bacteria that are usually spread through sexual contact. People with chlamydia often don't hav...

Read more »


Bladder Infection

A bladder infection, also called cystitis, is a bacterial infection in the bladder. Some people call a bladder infection a urinary tract infection, or UTI, which refers to a bacterial infection anywhere in th...

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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the reproductive organs in women. The pelvis is located in the lower abdomen and includes the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the cervix, and the uterus. According t...

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Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer occurs in the tissues of the bladder, which is the organ in the body that holds urine. Approximately 45,000 men and 17,000 women per year are diagnosed with the disease.The exact cause of bladder cance...

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Prostate Cancer Overview

Learn prostate cancer information, causes, symptoms and treatments.

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Epididymitis is inflammation of the epididymis , which is a tube located at the back of the testicles. The tube stores and carries sperm. Epididymitis is most common in men aged 19 to 35 and is a frequent cause o...

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Transitional Cell Cancer (Malignant Neoplasm of Ureter)

The tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder is known as the ureter . Most healthy people have two kidneys and, therefor, two ureters. The top of each ureter is found in the middle of the kidney in an area known a...

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Pyelonephritis is a sudden and severe kidney infection. This condition causes the kidneys to swell, can permanently damage the kidneys, and can even be life threatening. It is important to recognize the symptoms so yo...

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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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