What causes painful urination? 34 possible conditions

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What Is Painful Urination?

Painful urination is a broad term that is used to describe discomfort during urination. This pain may be caused by your:

  • bladder
  • urethra (the tube that carries urine outside your body)
  • perineum (in men, the area between the scrotum and the anus and in women, the area between the anus and the opening of the vagina)

Painful urination is very common. The pain, burning, or stinging can indicate a number of medical conditions.

Painful Urination Due to Urinary Tract Infections

Painful urination is a common sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs can be caused by bacterial infection or inflammation of the urinary tract.

Your urinary tract is made up of the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. The ureters are tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Inflammation in any of these organs can cause pain during urination.

Women and girls are more likely to develop urinary tract infections than men or boys. This is because the urethra is shorter in women than it is in men, and bacteria are more likely to live in a shorter urethra.

According to the National Institutes of Health, women who are pregnant or menopausal also have an increased risk of developing urinary tract infections (NIH).

Other Causes of Painful Urination

Other medical conditions can cause painful urination in men and women.

In men, prostatitis—or the inflammation of the prostate gland—is a primary cause of urinary burning, stinging, and discomfort.

You may also experience pain when urinating if you have a sexually transmitted infection, such as genital herpes, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. It’s important to get screened for these infections if you are experiencing pain and have participated in risky sexual activities, such as having sex without a condom or with multiple partners.

Another cause of painful urination is cystitis, or the inflammation of the bladder’s lining. Interstitial cystitis (IC)—also known as painful bladder syndrome—is the most common type of cystitis.

Symptoms of IC include pain and tenderness in the bladder and pelvic region. According to the National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse, doctors do not know what causes IC (NKUDIC).

In some cases, radiation therapy can cause bladder and urinary pain. This condition is known as radiation cystitis.

You may have difficulty urinating comfortably if you have kidney stones. Kidney stones are masses of hardened material located in the kidneys.

Sometimes, painful urination is not caused by an infection, but rather by products that are used on the genital regions. Soaps, lotions, and bubble baths can irritate vaginal tissues. Dyes in laundry detergents and other toiletry products can also cause irritation and lead to painful urination in those that are sensitive to them.

Medical Treatment for Painful Urination

In some cases, your doctor will prescribe medication to treat painful urination.

Antibiotics can treat UTIs, bacterial prostatitis, and treatable sexually transmitted infections. Your healthcare provider may also give you medication to calm your irritated bladder. Drugs used to treat IC include:

  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • pentosan polysulfate sodium(elmiron)
  • acetaminophen (Tylenol) with codeine

Once treatment is started, painful urination that is caused by bacterial infections usually improves fairly quickly. You should always take the medication exactly as your doctor prescribes in order to have the best results and fully recover.

Pain associated with interstitial cystitis may be more challenging to treat. Results from drug therapy may be slower. In some instances, you may have to take medication for up to four months before you start to feel better.

Lifestyle Adjustments to Relieve Painful Urination

There are changes you can make in your lifestyle to eliminate episodes of painful urination. Some simple ones are to:

  • steer clear of scented laundry detergents and toiletries to reduce your risk of irritation
  • use condoms during sexual activity to keep yourself safe from sexually transmitted infections
  • modify your diet to eliminate food and drinks that irritate the bladder

According to the NKUDIC, anecdotal evidence suggests that certain foods are more likely to irritate your bladder than others (NKUDIC). Some irritants to avoid include:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • spicy foods
  • citrus fruits and juices
  • tomato products
  • artificial sweeteners

If you suffer from pain during urination, you should also avoid highly acidic foods in order to help your bladder heal. Try to stick with a bland diet for several weeks while you are receiving medical treatment.

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

1

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...

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2

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 »

3

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 »

4

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 »

5

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.

Read more »

6

Urethritis

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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7

Prostatitis

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.

Read more »

8

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

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

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9

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.

Read more »

10

Bladder Neck Obstruction

The bladder neck is a group of muscles that connect the bladder to the urethra. The muscles constrict to hold urine in your bladder, and relax to release it through your urethra. Urinary problems occur whe...

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11

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is caused by infection with the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It infects warm, moist areas of the body, including: the urethra (the tube that drains urine fro...

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12

Renal Cell Cancer

Renal cell carcinoma, or RCC, is also called hypernephroma, adenocarcinoma of renal cells, or renal or kidney cancer. It is the most common kind of kidney cancer found in adults. The kidneys are organs in your body tha...

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13

Vulvovaginitis

Vulvovaginitis is inflammation or infection of the vulva and vagina. It is a common condition affecting women and girls of all ages. It has a variety of causes. It may also be called vulvitis or vaginitis.Vulvovaginiti...

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14

Menopause

Healthline demystifies menopause, a natural biological process that occurs in every woman's life, including the stages, menopause and perimenopause.

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15

Urologic Diseases

The term "urologic diseases" describes a wide variety of conditions, all related to the processing and carrying of urine out of the body. They can affect men, women, and children of all ages. These diseases affect ver...

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16

Dyspareunia

Dyspareunia is painful sexual intercourse. The same term is used whether the pain results from a medical or a psychosocial problem.

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17

Postmenopausal Atrophic Vaginitis

Postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis is the thinning of the walls of the vagina, caused by decreased estrogen levels. This most commonly occurs after menopause. The condition is also called vaginal atrophy. Menopause i...

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18

Vaginal Yeast Infection

Vaginal yeast infections, also known as candidiasis, are a common female condition. Yeast infections are caused by the fungus candida. This fungus is associated with intense itching, swelling, and irritation. Accordin...

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19

Epididymitis

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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20

Pyelonephritis

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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