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What You Need to Know About Painful Urination

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Last updated March 15, 2021

Painful urination questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your painful urination is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

Why does it hurt when you pee? Painful urination, also known as dysuria, is commonly caused by issues in the urinary tract that results in burning sensation when urinating, or increased frequency to urinate. A urinary tract infection, urethritis, a yeast infection, and sexually transmitted infections are some of the causes of painful urination. Read below for more related symptoms, other causes, and treatment options.

Painful urination questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your painful urination is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

See painful urination treatment options

Only available in: CA, NY, TX, FL, IL, NC, PA, OH, MI, and WA

Common dysuria symptoms

Painful urination can catch any person off guard. Many of us have experienced waking up one morning to begin a normal routine, only to experience a burning, painful sensation upon urination.

In many people, painful urination, or dysuria, is often the only symptom. But it can also occur with other symptoms. The process of urination requires multiple organs the kidneys filter the urine, the ureters carry urine from the kidney to the bladder where urine is stored, and finally the urethra takes urine from the bladder and expels it from the body.

Problems with any part of the urinary tract can result in painful urination as well as other related symptoms. It is important to recognize these varied painful urination symptoms and know when to speak with your doctor in order to get appropriate treatment and relief.

Common accompanying symptoms of painful urination

Other symptoms you may experience along with painful urination symptoms include:

  • A sensation of bladder fullness
  • Increased frequency or urge to urinate
  • Discomfort of the lower abdomen
  • Genital itching
  • Penile or vaginal discharge

Why does it hurt when you pee?

Painful urination and its associated symptoms can begin in any part of the urinary tract which includes, the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. The causes of painful urination can be grouped into two main categories.

Infectious causes

Infectious causes of painful urination may include the following.

  • Bacterial infections: Many types of outside bacteria can enter the body easily via the urinary tract, including sexually transmitted bacteria such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Bacterial infections may also explain any genital itching or discharge you may be experiencing.
  • Fungal infections: The vagina can become infected by fungi such as yeast or become overgrown by fungi that already inhabit the vaginal walls. These types of infections cause pain upon urination because the flow of urine can irritate the vaginal walls.

Inflammation and irritation

Infection is a major cause of inflammation, but the urinary tract, vagina or prostate can also become inflamed and irritated due to causes not related to infection.

  • Internal obstruction: The kidney is prone to developing stones of hardened material that can irritate not only the kidney but the entire urinary tract, leading to painful urination.
  • External moisture changes: Scented soaps, lotions, toiletries and other body products can dry out and irritate the genital tissue and cause painful urination. Furthermore, with menopause, the vagina loses its natural lubrication. Subsequent dryness and irritation can also result in painful urination symptoms.

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Urinary tract infection

A urinary tract infection is an infection of the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, bladder, and urethra. Urinary tract infections are usually caused by infections by fecal bacteria.

Symptoms of urinary tract infections include pain with urination (dysuria), ..

Non-specific painful urination (dysuria)

Dysuria is a symptom rather than a condition in itself, and simply means "painful or difficult urination."

The most common cause is infection with Escherichia coli bacteria, which is carried in fecal matter. Dysuria may also be due to viral infection, trauma, bladder stones, scarring following a sexually transmitted disease, or other reasons.

Most susceptible are women, especially younger and sexually active women. Post-menopausal women are often affected due to dryness and other changes in the vaginal tissues.

Older men may also have dysuria due to an enlarged, inflamed prostate gland.

Symptoms include pain, discomfort, and burning on urination. There may also be urinary frequency or urgency.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, with questions regarding all medications and supplements. Physical examination and urinalysis will be done. A pelvic exam may be done for women and a rectal prostate exam done for men.

Treatment usually involves a course of antibiotics and sometimes an over-the-counter urinary tract pain reliever.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: painful urination, vaginal discharge

Symptoms that always occur with non-specific painful urination (dysuria): painful urination

Symptoms that never occur with non-specific painful urination (dysuria): pelvis pain, bright red (bloody) urine, pink/blood-tinged urine, fever, vaginal discharge, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting

Urgency: Self-treatment

Painful urination questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your painful urination is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

See painful urination treatment options

Only available in: CA, NY, TX, FL, IL, NC, PA, OH, MI, and WA


Urethritis is an infection of the urethra, which drains urine out of the body from the bladder. The urethra may be involved alone or with other structures in an overall urinary tract infection.

Urethritis is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD) in itself, but the same bacteria and viruses that cause STDs can also infect the urethra. Another common cause is the E.coli bacteria, found in feces.

Most susceptible are sexually active women, but anything that allows bacteria (especially E. coli) to travel into the urinary tract can cause an infection.

The most common symptoms are burning on urination and a cloudy discharge.

Diagnosis is made through urine test and a swab taken from the urethra. A urethritis patient should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases as well.

Treatment involves antibiotics, if the urethritis is caused by bacteria. Taking cranberry supplements can also be helpful, as long as the patient is not also taking the blood thinner called warfarin.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: painful urination, penis pain, fluid leaking, pink/blood-tinged urine, cloudy urine

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Yeast infection

Yeast infections are due to alterations in the balance of microscopic organisms in the vulvar and vaginal regions. The term "yeast infection" is most commonly used to describe symptoms caused by the fungus Candida albicans.

Symptoms include itching of the vaginal and vulva, burning, redness.

Atrophic vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis is a common condition that may affect up to 47% of postmenopausal women. It occurs due to low levels of estrogen which can be caused by menopause, medical treatments, and hormonal conditions, among other things.

Symptoms of atrophic vaginitis include vaginal dry..

Symptoms of menopause

Menopause is the name for the natural process by which the menstrual cycle (period) stops happening in a woman. Usually, the process is gradual (takes months or years) and occurs from the age of 45 to 55 years. Menopause is officially diagnosed once a woman stops having a period for 12 months continuously. A woman with menopause will notice a decrease in the number and regularity of her periods until they completely stop. In addition, she may notice a number of symptoms that occur as a result of decreased estrogen levels, such as hot flashes, changes in mood, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, changes in libido, and changes in sexual function. Certain medications exist that can decrease these symptoms.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, delay in or irregular periods, vaginal discharge, anxiety, trouble sleeping

Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause: delay in or irregular periods

Urgency: Self-treatment

Chlamydia infection

Chlamydia trachomatis is a type of bacteria best known for causing the sexually transmitted infection known simply as chlamydia. It is among the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), with more than a million cases reported each year in the U.S. alone.

However, the sy..

Painful bladder syndrome (interstitial cystitis)

Painful bladder syndrome, also called interstitial cystitis or IC, is a chronic condition of pain and discomfort in the urinary system.

The cause is unknown. It may be an autoimmune disorder and is often found with fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, or vulvodynia (pain in the outer female organs.) Some researchers feel the condition may be linked to a history of abuse.

Painful bladder syndrome is more common in women than in men, but can happen to anyone.

Symptoms vary and may include pressure and discomfort in the lower abdomen; pain during sexual intercourse; bladder pain; and a frequent urge to urinate.

A medical provider should be seen for these symptoms, because painful bladder syndrome can interfere with quality of life and lead to depression.

Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; blood and urine tests; and sometimes cystoscopy. Women may have a pelvic examination and men may have a digital rectal examination.

There is no cure specifically for painful bladder syndrome, so treatment involves addressing the symptoms and making lifestyle changes.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), depressed mood, pelvis pain, arthralgias or myalgias

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Vaginal trichomonas infection

Trichomonas vaginalis infection (or "Trichomoniasis" or "trich") is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by a parasite of the same name. It affects over 3 million people per year, but only about 30% have any symptoms.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: vaginal discharge, vulvovaginal odor, vaginal itch or burning, vaginal bleeding, white/gray vaginal discharge

Symptoms that always occur with vaginal trichomonas infection: vaginal discharge

Symptoms that never occur with vaginal trichomonas infection: vaginal ulcer

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Gonococcal cervicitis

Gonococcal cervicitis is an inflammation of the cervix – the passageway at the lower end of the uterus – caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, or gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and spreads through unprotected sexual contact.

Symptoms include abnormal vaginal discharge, pain or discomfort during sex, and vaginal bleeding after sex. However, some women have few or no symptoms.

If not treated, gonococcal cervicitis can lead to further infection of the reproductive tract and to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause sterility.

Diagnosis is made after a cervical swab is taken and tested.

Treatment is through a course of oral antibiotics. Women diagnosed with gonococcal cervicitis should be further tested for other common STDs such as chlamydia and trichomoniasis, as they are often found at the same time.

The best prevention for gonorrhea is the use of a condom during sex, as well as testing of all sex partners so that they can be treated and not re-infect anyone.

Cervicitis in general can be prevented by not exposing the cervix to douching or other irritants.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, painful sex, yellow pus vaginal discharge, heavy menstrual flow

Symptoms that never occur with gonococcal cervicitis: improving vaginal discharge

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Relief for burning urination

If you are experiencing painful urination, make an appointment with your doctor. Painful urination is usually an easily treatable condition.

When to see a doctor

Based on your painful urination symptoms, your doctor may:

  • Test your urine to see if you have an infection
  • Swab your vagina: This is to collect mucous and determine if a bacteria or yeast is causing inflammation
  • Examine your prostate: This is to see if your pain is caused by an infection or inflammation of the prostate gland.

Depending on the findings, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. It is important to take the antibiotics as instructed, because skipping doses may make the treatment less effective and put you at risk for developing other infections.

Painful urination questionnaire

Answer our clinicians’ questions to learn if your painful urination is serious and get a UTI treatment prescription for $25 if necessary.

See painful urination treatment options

Only available in: CA, NY, TX, FL, IL, NC, PA, OH, MI, and WA

When painful urination is an emergency

Make another appointment with your doctor or go straight to the hospital if:

  • Your painful urination persists
  • You have drainage or discharge from your penis or vagina
  • Your urine is foul-smelling: Or cloudy, or 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

At-home treatments and prevention

If you are looking to prevent these painful urination symptoms, there are many things you can do at home and easily change in your routine to help you keep discomfort at bay.

  • Limit potentially irritating products: Limit the use of any scented bath and body products to reduce risk of irritation.
  • Practice safe sex: Use lubrication and condoms during sexual activity to protect yourself from irritation and sexually transmitted infections.
  • Drink sufficient water daily: This is to reduce your risk of developing stones in the kidney and urinary tract.

FAQs about painful urination

Why does it sting after I pee?

Stinging or burning after urination may be caused by infectious or non-infectious causes. Infectious causes include infections of the bladder and urethra like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes. Non-infectious causes include chemicals entering the urethra like detergents from clothes, fabric softeners, perfumed soaps, and bubble baths. Notably, non-infectious causes do not cause a discharge.

Can pain when urinating be a sign of pregnancy?

No, painful urination is not used as a sign of pregnancy. Pregnant women, however, do have a higher rate of recurring bacterial infections in their urine during pregnancy. This is because of the effects of the gravid (pregnant) uterus on the bladder and its ability to fully empty. While you stand a higher chance of having bacteriuria because of its recurrence rate while pregnant, and this may cause pain upon urination, it is not common enough to be used as a sign of pregnancy.

Can a UTI go away on its own?

There is little evidence that a urinary tract infection (UTI) routinely can resolve on its own. Uncommonly the urinary tract infection gradually disappears as the body fights the infection. More commonly the UTI gets worse by ascending the urinary tract to the bladder or kidneys. UTIs generally should be treated immediately.

Is painful urination a sign of an STD?

Yes, although painful urination can be caused by other disorders as well, it is a sign of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI). Particularly gonorrhea and chlamydia are known for causing pain with urination. If you suspect you have an STD, than you should seek both evaluation and care in your local health center or from your general practitioner.

Why do I have continuous burning after I pee?

Continuous burning after urination can be a sign of many things. Infectious causes include inflammation of the urethra and/or the bladder by gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes. Inflammation of the head of the penis or the foreskin can cause pain after urination, as urination irritates the inflammation of the foreskin; this can be caused by a bacterial infection from accumulation of bacteria or from a sexually transmitted infection. Inflammation of the vagina or presence of candida a non-sexually transmitted yeast can cause burning with urination in women. Streptococcus and shigella, which can cause strep throat and food poisoning respectively, can also cause burning with urination. Chemicals in soaps, detergents, fabric softeners, and shampoos can also cause burning after urination.

Questions your doctor may ask about painful urination

  • Are you sexually active?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Have you noticed any changes in the color of your urine recently?
  • Have you experienced any nausea?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

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Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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