Family Health
Elimination Problem|Urinary Tract Infections|Urologic|Urologic Disorders

Painful Urination

Last Updated August 2022 | This article was created by editorial staff and reviewed by Robert "Chuck" Rich, Jr., MD, FAAFP

Painful urination (dysuria) is when you feel pain, discomfort, or burning when you urinate. The discomfort may be felt where urine passes out of the body. It may also be felt inside the body. This could include pain in the bladder, prostate (for men), or behind the pubic bone. Sometimes it can be a sign of an infection or other health problem.

Path to Improved Health

There are several conditions that can cause painful urination. The most common is a urinary tract infection (UTI). The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, bladder, and urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body. Bacteria can build in the tract when waste isn’t removed or if the bladder isn’t emptied correctly. This causes an infection. Swelling and irritation from the infection can make urination uncomfortable.

Sometimes painful urination can occur even if you don’t have a UTI. Other causes include:

  • Certain medicines, like some used in cancer chemotherapy, may inflame the bladder.
  • Something pressing against the bladder.This could be an ovarian cyst or a kidney stone stuck near the entrance to the bladder.
  • Vaginal infection or irritation
  • Sensitivity to chemicals in products.Douches, vaginal lubricants, soaps, scented toilet paper, or contraceptive foams or sponges may contain chemicals that cause irritation.
  • Sexually transmitted infections.Gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes can cause urination to be painful for some people.
  • Prostate infection

Things to Consider

Sometimes painful urination comes and goes on its own. Other times it is the sign of a problem. If you have any of the following symptoms along with painful urination, call your doctor:

  • Drainage or discharge from your penis or vagina
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Fever
  • Pain that lasts more than 1 day
  • Pain in your back or side (flank pain)

Also call your doctor if you are pregnant and are experiencing painful urination.

Painful urination can be a symptom of a more serious problem. Be sure to tell your doctor:

  • About your symptoms and how long you’ve had them
  • About any medical conditions you have, such as diabetes  or AIDS. These conditions could affect your body’s response to infection.
  • About any known abnormality in your urinary tract
  • If you are or might be pregnant
  • If you’ve had any procedures or surgeries on your urinary tract
  • If you were recently hospitalized (less than 1 month ago) or stayed in a nursing home
  • If you’re had repeated UTIs
  • If you’ve tried any over-the-counter medicines for your pain

If your doctor thinks you have a UTI, they will do a urinalysis. This tests your urine to look for infection. They may also order an ultrasound of your kidneys or bladder. This can help find sources of pain, including kidney stones.

Your doctor might think your pain is from vaginal inflammation. If so, they may wipe the lining of your vagina with a swab to collect mucus. The mucus will be looked at under a microscope. This will test for yeast or other organisms. Your doctor might think your pain is from an infection in your urethra. They may swab it to test for bacteria. If an infection can’t be found, they may suggest other tests.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What is causing my discomfort?
  • Is it a UTI or other infection?
  • What is the treatment?
  • Are there any side effects to the treatment?
  • How soon will my symptoms get better?


American Family Physician: Painful Urination

National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus: Urination – painful

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