When You Have Painful Urination and Burning (Dysuria)

Painful urination with burning, also known as dysuria, is most often felt in the tube that carries urine out of your bladder (called the urethra) or the area surrounding your genitals (called the perineum). Pain is often felt when you stop urinating. 

Woman in bathroom holding her crotch
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Common Causes of Dysuria

Painful urination with a burning sensation is usually a sign of a urinary tract infection, irritation, or inflammation of the bladder, urethra, or prostate. In women, it is most likely a urinary tract infection.

If you feel severe pain just as you stop urinating, your bladder is probably the source of the problem.

Men are less likely to get urinary tract infections overall, but infection or inflammation of the prostate or urethra can cause painful urination.

Other Causes of Painful Urination

In women, candidal dermatitis or vaginitis, vulvitis, and interstitial cystitis (bladder infection) may be causing the painful urination with burning. Urinary retention and radiation cystitis also can result in painful urination with burning.

Other common medical conditions and external causes of painful urination include:

  • Bladder stones or kidney stones
  • Drugs, such as those used in cancer treatment, that have bladder irritation as a side effect
  • Having a recent urinary tract procedure performed, including use of urologic instruments for testing or treatment
  • Kidney infection
  • Sexually transmitted diseases including chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, and others
  • Soaps, perfumes and other personal care products
  • Urethral stricture (narrowing of the urethra)

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Make an appointment to see your healthcare provider if:

  • Your painful urination persists
  • You have drainage or discharge from your penis or vagina
  • You see blood in your urine
  • You have a fever
  • You have back pain or pain in your side (flank pain)
  • You pass a kidney or bladder (urinary tract) stone


Your healthcare provider will most often be able to diagnose the cause of your painful, burning urination when you describe your physical symptoms and submit a urine sample for testing. For female patients, the healthcare provider may also swab the lining of the vagina or the urethra to check for signs of infection.

At your visit, your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history, including information about conditions you or close family members may have, such as diabetes mellitus or immunodeficiency disorders.

You may also need to share your sexual history to determine if a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is causing your pain. Tests for STDs may also be required.

The urine and/or swab sample your healthcare providers take will be analyzed for white blood cells, red blood cells, or foreign chemicals. White blood cells usually mean you have a bacterial infection.

A urine culture, which takes about two days for final results, will show which bacteria are causing the infection. It also helps the healthcare provider understand which antibiotics will help treat the bacteria.

If your urine sample shows no sign of infection, you may undergo additional tests to look at the bladder or prostate.

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Article Sources
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  1. Bent S, Nallamothu BK, Simel DL, Fihn SD, Saint S. Does this woman have an acute uncomplicated urinary tract infection?. JAMA. 2002;287(20):2701-10. doi:10.1001/jama.287.20.2701

  2. Coker TJ, Dierfeldt DM. Acute bacterial prostatitis: Diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2016;93(2):114-20.

  3. Michels TC, Sands JE. Dysuria: Evaluation and differential diagnosis in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015;92(9):778-86.

  4. Devillé WL, Yzermans JC, Van duijn NP, Bezemer PD, Van der windt DA, Bouter LM. The urine dipstick test useful to rule out infections. A meta-analysis of the accuracy. BMC Urol. 2004;4:4. doi:10.1186/1471-2490-4-4

Additional Reading
  • Cleveland Clinic. Painful urination
  • Mayo Clinic. Painful urination
  • McAninch JW. Symptoms of disorders of the genitourinary tract. In: Tanagho EA, McAninch JW (eds) Smith’s General Urology. 17th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.