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Painful urination (dysuria) is a broad term that describes discomfort during urination. This pain may originate in the bladder, urethra, or perineum. The urethra is the tube that carries urine outside of your body.

In those with a penis, the area between the scrotum and the anus is known as the perineum. In those with a vagina, the perineum is the area between the anus and the opening of the vagina.

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

Urinary tract infections

Painful urination is a common sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI can be the result of a bacterial infection. It can also be due to inflammation of the urinary tract.

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

People with a vagina are more likely to develop UTIs than people with a penis. This is because the urethra is shorter in those with a vagina. A shorter urethra means that bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.

People who are pregnant or menopausal also have an increased risk of developing urinary tract infections.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

You may also experience pain when urinating if you have acquired a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Some STIs that may cause painful urination include genital herpes, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.

It’s important to be screened for STIs, especially because they don’t always have symptoms. Many people who are sexually active should get tested for STIs.

Prostatitis

Other medical conditions can cause painful urination. People with a prostate may experience painful urination due to prostatitis. This condition is the inflammation of the prostate gland. It’s a primary cause of urinary burning, stinging, and discomfort.

Cystitis

Another cause of painful urination is cystitis or the inflammation of the bladder’s lining. Interstitial cystitis (IC) is also known as painful bladder syndrome. It’s the most common type of cystitis. Symptoms of IC include pain and tenderness in the bladder and pelvic region.

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

Urethritis

Urethritis indicates that the urethra has become inflamed, usually due to an infection by bacteria. Urethritis often causes pain while urinating and can also cause an increased urge to urinate.

Epididymitis

Painful urination can also be caused by epididymitis, or inflammation of the epididymis in those with a penis. The epididymis is located at the back of the testicles and stores and moves sperm from the testes.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

PID can affect the fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, and uterus. It can cause pain in the abdomen, painful sex, and painful urination, among other symptoms.

PID is a serious infection that is usually caused by an initial bacterial infection in the vagina that then moves into the reproductive organs.

Obstructive uropathy

Obstructive uropathy is when an obstruction in the ureter, bladder, or urethra causes urine to flow back into the kidneys. Causes vary, but it’s important to seek medical help when symptoms occur.

Another condition, urethral stricture, can cause narrowing in the urethra, causing similar issues with urination and pain.

Kidney stones

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

Medications

Certain medications, such as those for cancer treatments and some antibiotics, can have painful urination as a side effect. Talk to your healthcare provider about any side effects to medications you may be taking.

Hygiene products

Sometimes painful urination isn’t due to an infection. It can also be caused by products that you use in the genital regions. Soaps, lotions, and bubble baths can irritate vaginal tissues especially.

Dyes in laundry detergents and other toiletry products can also cause irritation and lead to painful urination.

Determining the cause of the pain will be the first step before treatment.

Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat painful urination. Antibiotics can treat UTIs, some bacterial infections, and some STIs. Your doctor may also give you medication to calm your irritated bladder.

Painful urination due to a bacterial infection usually improves fairly quickly after you start taking medication. Always take the medication exactly as your doctor prescribes.

Pain associated with some infections, such as interstitial cystitis, may be more challenging to treat. Results from drug therapy may be slower. You may have to take medication for up to 4 months before you start to feel better.

There are changes you can make to your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms.

Contact your healthcare provider:

  • if the pain is persistent or long-lasting
  • if you’re pregnant
  • the pain is accompanied by a fever
  • if you experience discharge from your penis or vagina
  • if your urine has a different odor, has blood in it, or is cloudy
  • if the pain is accompanied by abdominal pain
  • if you pass a bladder or kidney stone

Your doctor may ask about other symptoms and request lab work to help determine the cause of the pain.

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