Painful urination

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at December 7, 2015
StartSymptomsPainful urination

Painful urination can be a very unpleasant and uncomfortable condition. Though some patients may feel awkward discussing it, painful urination is actually an incredibly common issue that many people face. Painful urination is caused by a variety of issues, ranging from easily curable urinary tract infections to conditions which may require surgery.


Definition & Facts

The technical medical term for painful urination is dysuria. In addition to sharp pains, a person suffering from dysuria may also experience a feeling of burning or discomfort. Painful urination is more common among women, but it can also occur among men too.

The pain may feel like it is coming from the bladder, the urethra, or even the genitals. There are many different causes of painful urination, ranging from a simple infection to a serious health issue. In order to remove discomfort during urination, it is necessary to determine the medical condition that is causing this symptom.


The most common cause of painful urination is a urinary tract infection. Both men and women may have a urinary tract infection, but it is more common in women, since their urethra is shorter. A urinary tract infection happens when bacteria travels up the urethra, and it can affect the kidneys and bladder as well.

In addition to painful urination, a person with a urinary tract infection may have cloudy or bloody urine, a fever, and a constant urge to urinate. Another medical condition that causes painful urination is a sexually transmitted infection. Genital herpes, gonorrhea, and chlamydia can all cause sensations of pain while urinating. Other symptoms of sexually transmitted infections include itching, blisters or sores, and abnormal discharge.

Cystitis is another issue that can lead to painful urination. Cystitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bladder, so a person with cystitis may also feel pain in the pelvis and near the bladder. Sometimes, a person with painful urination can have kidney stones, which are hardened mineral deposits that form in the kidneys. As kidney stones move through the urinary tract, a person may experience severe back or belly pain and bloody urine. Other causes of painful urination may be due to diet, sexual activity, or other environmental factors.

When to see a doctor

Since there are so many different causes of painful urination, a doctor can be very helpful with figuring out why a patient is having painful urination. If it just happens once, a doctor’s visit may not be necessary. However, a person should see their doctor if the painful urination continues, they see blood in their urine, they have back pain, or they have a fever.

It may be necessary to do lab tests in order to diagnose the issue. Most people with a urinary tract infection should seek a doctor in order to be prescribed medication, but some people who regularly have urinary tract infections are fine with home treatments. If a patient is also experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection, it is necessary to seek medical health in order to treat the sexually transmitted infection before it gets more severe.

A pregnant woman who experiences painful urination should contact a doctor immediately, because some conditions related to painful urination can negatively affect the pregnancy. A person should immediately seek medical health if the painful urination is accompanied with nausea, vomiting, or back and side pain, since this could be a sign of serious kidney problems.

Treatment & Therapy

Depending on the cause of painful urination, there can be very many treatments. A simple urinary tract infection can often be cleared up with a short course of antibiotics. Some medical studies suggest that drinking cranberry juice may help the urinary tract infection to heal faster. A recurring urinary tract infection can be treated with low dose antibiotics over the course of several months.

Over the counter pain relievers can often be taken along with the antibiotics to make the patient more comfortable. A heating pad or a warm compress can also help to relieve pain during urination. If the urinary tract is due to gonorrhea or chlamydia, antibiotics such as doxycycline, azithromycin, and ceftriaxone will help to heal the infection. Though genital herpes is never completely cured, acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir can all help to manage outbreaks.

There are many different treatments for cystitis, the infection of the bladder. Often, antibiotic treatments will fix it, but other medical procedures may be necessary. Though kidney stones may cause painful urination, this mostly happens right before a person passes the stone. Therefore, it is necessary to take pain relievers and drink a lot of water in order to make it easier to pass the stone.

A medical procedure may be needed if the stone is too large to pass naturally. If the painful urination turns out to be due to environmental factors, it is necessary to avoid whatever may be triggering the issue.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

Lifestyle changes can greatly reduce a person’s risk of having to deal with painful urination. Drinking more water will prevent mineral masses from causing kidney stones, and a lot of water will also help to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. Going to the bathroom regularly instead of waiting to urinate will also help to remove bacteria before it becomes problematic.

In general, proper urinary tract health will lessen chances of recurring urinary tract infections, cystitis, and kidney stones. Since the urinary tract is so near genitals, sexual habits can be modified to reduce recurrences of painful urination. Always urinating right after sex will help to flush out any bacteria before it can travel up the urethra to cause problems.

Using condoms and only having intercourse with partners who are free of infection will prevent a person from catching more sexually transmitted infections. Avoiding putting any delicate areas into contact with harshly chemical soaps, synthetic fabrics, and scented lotions can make sure that these items do not irritate the body and trigger painful urination.