Dysuria

Dysuria refers to pain when you urinate. Individuals with dysuria usually describe it as a burning sensation. Dysuria is most often caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Dysuria can affect anyone of any age, but it is most common in women. Treatment for dysuria depends on the underlying cause. If a bacterial infection causes dysuria, antibiotics are usually prescribed.

This article will provide an overview of dysuria, including common causes, symptoms, and treatment. 

Woman sitting on toilet holding tissue

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Symptoms of Dysuria

Dysuria is pain or discomfort when urinating. The pain may be described as burning, stinging, or tingling. It’s also possible to experience itching with the pain. 

The pain may occur in the area of the body where urine exits the body. It can also be felt in the bladder, prostate, or behind the pubic bone. In addition to pain, people with dysuria may experience urinary frequency (the urge to urinate frequently). 

Causes of Dysuria

Dysuria affects about 3% of U.S. adults. It’s estimated that about 8.6 million people visited their healthcare providers because of dysuria from cystitis (an inflamed bladder). 

The most common causes of dysuria include:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI): An infection in any part of the urinary tract
  • Bladder infection: Also known as cystitis, inflammation that is usually caused by an infection in the bladder
  • Inflammation in the urethra: The tube that carries urine out of the body

Other possible causes of dysuria include:

  • Irritation of the perineum (the area between the anus and genitals)
  • Presence of a foreign body in the urinary tract 
  • Dermatologic (skin) conditions 
  • Vulvovaginitis (infection or inflammation of the vulva and vagina)
  • Atrophic vaginitis (discomfort in the vaginal area due to menopause)
  • Prostate infection
  • Bladder spasms 
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs, such as (herpes, gonorrhea, or chlamydia)
  • Interstitial cystitis (chronic bladder condition)
  • Radiation cystitis (complications of radiation therapy to pelvic tumors)

While rare, dysuria may also be caused by bladder, kidneys, vagina, and prostate cancer. 

What Medications Can Cause Dysuria?

Certain medications can cause painful urination, which include:

How to Treat Dysuria

Treatment for dysuria depends on what is causing the pain. A UTI is usually treated with the medication Pyridium (phenazopyridine), which helps relieve the pain of dysuria but does not cure an infection. It’s important to note that this medication typically turns your urine red-orange. This is a normal side effect and does not indicate bleeding.

Adults with uncomplicated cystitis are usually treated with the following antibiotics:

  • Bactrim (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole TMP-SMX)
  • Macrobid (nitrofurantoin monohydrate)
  • Monurol (fosfomycin)

Complications and Risk Factors Associated With Dysuria

Dysuria can occur for a variety of reasons. The most common cause is an infection of the urinary tract. Risk factors for UTIs include:

  • Women
  • History of UTIs
  • Being sexually active 
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Use of spermicides
  • Poor hygiene

When a UTI goes untreated, complications can occur. Possible complications of a UTI include:

  • Recurrent infections
  • Overactive bladder
  • Kidney damage
  • Sepsis (body's life-threatening response to an infection)
  • Pregnancy complications 

To prevent dysuria in the future, make a plan to drink more water. Staying well-hydrated can help prevent UTIs. 

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Dysuria?

Dysuria can be diagnosed based on the individual’s description. Your healthcare provider usually recommends tests to determine the cause when you have dysuria.  

Your provider will most often start with a physical exam and medical history. Expect to answer questions about how the pain feels, how long it has been going on, and if you are experiencing any other urinary symptoms such as urgency or incontinence (loss of bladder control). 

You will likely be asked to obtain a “clean-catch” urine sample, which can be done while using the bathroom. To obtain a clean-catch sample, hold the sample cup on the outside, never touching the interior. Start the flow of urine into the toilet, then stop. Placing your cup in the stream of urine, begin urinating again into the cup. Stop before you are finished, and finish urinating into the toilet. 

Tests to expect include:

  • Urinalysis (to test urine for white blood cells, red blood cells, and chemicals)
  • Urine culture (to test for bacteria in the urine)
  • Pelvic exam (women)
  • Urethral swab (men)

If you have a history of serious infections or health conditions affecting the urinary system, your provider may recommend one of the following exams:

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Call your healthcare provider whenever you’re experiencing dysuria because you could have an infection requiring medical treatment. 

Other signs of infection may include fever, blood in urine, and drainage or pus from the penis or vagina.

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you are experiencing dysuria during pregnancy. 

Summary 

Dysuria is pain or discomfort when urinating. An infection of the urinary tract, such as a bladder infection, usually causes it. Other symptoms associated with dysuria include burning, stinging, tingling, and itching. Individuals with dysuria may experience urinary frequency as well. Once you have experienced dysuria for more than a day, call your healthcare provider. Your provider will likely obtain a medical history and a urine sample. A bacterial infection is typically treated with antibiotics. 

A Word From Verywell

Dysuria is an uncomfortable condition that usually requires a visit to a healthcare provider. While it’s natural to feel nervous or embarrassed to discuss your symptoms, don’t delay. Early diagnosis and treatment of a UTI can bring faster relief from the burning pain you’re experiencing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes dysuria?

    The most common cause of dysuria is a urinary tract infection (UTI). Other possible causes include inflammation, irritation, dermatologic condition, presence of a foreign body, and STIs. 

  • How can I get rid of dysuria?

    Treatment for dysuria depends on the underlying cause. The most common cause of dysuria is a bacterial infection, which requires antibiotic treatment. Drinking more water can also provide some pain relief.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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