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What causes pain in urethra? 21 possible conditions


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Usually the urethra is wide enough for urine to flow freely through it. When it narrows, it can restrict urinary flow. This is known as a urethral stricture.

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Postmenopausal Atrophic Vaginitis

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

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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 inflammation of the prostate gland, which produces a fluid found in semen. The inflammation may spread to the area around the prostate. Causes include bladder infection, STDs, and injuries to the prostate.

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Orchitis is the inflammation of the testicles. It can be caused by either bacterial or viral infection such as the mumps or certain STIs. Symptoms are often restricted to just one testicle in most men.

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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...

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Bladder Infection

A bladder infection is a bacterial infection. It also may be called a urinary tract infection (UTI), which refers to infection anywhere in the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys, ureters, or urethra.

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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the reproductive organs in women. It's marked by pain in the abdomen, especially during urination or sex.

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Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer occurs in the tissues of the bladder, which is the organ that holds urine. Fatigue, weight loss, painful or frequent urination, and abdominal or back pain are symptoms.

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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, the tube located at the back of the testicles that stores and carries sperm. It's usually caused by a bacterial or sexually transmitted infection.

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Transitional Cell Cancer (Malignant Neoplasm of Ureter)

Urine collects in the renal pelvis and is drained by the ureter into the bladder. When cancer develops in the renal pelvis or ureter, it begins in transitional cells, which line these organs.

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Pyelonephritis is an inflammation of the kidney and upper urinary tract. Symptoms include flushed skin, back pain, fever, and nausea.

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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.