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Dysuria (painful urination)

A burning or painful sensation during urination is medically known as dysuria. It is more common in women than in men. In men, it is more common in older, rather than younger men.

These are some of the more common causes of painful or burning urination:


Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the leading causes of painful urination. It can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Infections can happen in any part of the urinary tract, including:

  • Kidneys
  • Ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder)
  • Bladder
  • Urethra (tube from the bladder that carries urine out of the body)

Urinary tract infections are most frequently caused by bacteria that get into the urinary tract through the urethra.

Factors that can increase your chance of developing a UTI include:

Symptoms of lower UTI include:

  • Pain or discomfort on passing urine
  • Foul or stronger-smelling urine
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Increased need to urinate, during night, day or both
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tenderness around pelvic area
  • Back pain
  • General sense of feeling ill

Symptoms of upper UTI include:

Sometimes painful urination can be related to a vaginal infection, such as a yeast infection - also known as thrush. The symptoms of thrush can also include:

  • Vulval itching
  • Vulval soreness and irritation
  • Pain, or discomfort, during sexual intercourse
  • Pain, or discomfort, during urination
  • Vaginal discharge, usually odourless and watery, or cottage cheese consistency.


Sexually transmitted infections can also cause painful urination. These include:

Besides painful urination, these sexually transmitted infections can also cause symptoms such as:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Blisters or sores for genital herpes
  • Abnormal discharge


Inflammation and irritation

A range of problems can lead to inflammation or irritation of the urinary tract or genital area, leading to the symptom of painful or burning urination. Besides infections, other reasons that area may be irritated or inflamed include:

  • Stones in the urinary tract
  • Irritation of the urethra from sexual activity
  • Interstitial cystitis, a condition caused by bladder inflammation
  • Vaginal changes related to menopause
  • Activities such as horse-riding or cycling
  • Vaginal sensitivity or irritation related to use of scented soaps, bubble bath, toilet paper, or other products such as douches or spermicides
  • Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
  • Side effects from certain medicines, supplements and treatments
  • Tumour in the urinary tract


Seeking medical advice about dysuria

After a discussion of your medical history and a physical examination, your GP may request lab tests to help diagnose the cause of your dysuria symptoms. Then you can begin targeted treatment.

To help determine the cause, the doctor may ask whether your painful urination:

  • Started suddenly or gradually
  • Happened once or many times
  • Is felt at the onset of, or after, urination

The doctor may also ask if your painful urination is accompanied by symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Pain in the abdomen or side of the body

The doctor may also want to know if the painful urination is accompanied by changes in urine flow, such as:

  • Dribbling
  • Difficulty initiating flow
  • Increased frequency or need to urinate

And you may also be asked by your doctor if there are changes in urine character along with painful urination. These include changes in urine such as:

Answers to these questions will give your doctor clues to the cause of your symptoms. You will probably need a urine test or other tests to confirm a diagnosis.


WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on November 14, 2016

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