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Dysuria (Painful Urination)

Dysuria is a symptom of pain, discomfort, or burning when urinating. It is more common in women than in men. In men, it is more common in older men than younger men.

These are some of the more common causes of painful urination:

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Infections. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the leading causes of painful urination. Infections can occur in any part of the urinary tract, including:

  • kidneys
  • ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder)
  • bladder
  • urethra (tube from the bladder that carries urine out of the body)

Urinary tract infections are most often caused by bacteria that get into the urinary tract through the urethra.

Factors that can increase your chance of developing a UTI include:

  • being a woman
  • diabetes
  • advanced age
  • enlarged prostate
  • kidney stones
  • pregnancy
  • having a urinary catheter in place

Besides painful urination, other symptoms of UTI include:

  • fever
  • foul or stronger-smelling urine
  • cloudy or bloody urine
  • increased urinary frequency or urge to urinate

Sometimes painful urination can be related to a vaginal infection, such as a yeast infection. With vaginal infections, you may also expect changes in vaginal discharge and odor.

Sexually transmitted infections can also cause painful urination. These include:

  • genital herpes
  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea

Besides painful urination, these sexually transmitted infections can also cause symptoms such as:

  • itching
  • burning
  • blisters or sores for genital herpes
  • abnormal discharge

Inflammation and irritation. A range of problems can lead to inflammation or irritation of the urinary tract or genital area, leading to the symptom of painful urination. Besides infections, other reasons that area may be irritated or inflamed include:

  • Stones in the urinary tract
  • Irritation of the urethra from sexual activity
  • Interstitial cystitis, a condition caused by bladder inflammation
  • Vaginal changes related to menopause
  • Activities such as horseback riding or bicycling
  • Vaginal sensitivity or irritation related to use of scented soaps or bubble bath, toilet paper, or other products such as douches or spermicides
  • Side effects from certain medications, supplements, and treatments
  • Tumor in the urinary tract

Seeing a Doctor for Dysuria

After a history and physical exam, your doctor may request lab tests to help diagnose the cause of your dysuria symptoms. Then you can begin targeted treatment.

To help determine the cause, the doctor may ask whether your painful urination:

  • Started suddenly or gradually
  • Occurred once or many times
  • Is felt at the onset of urination

The doctor may also ask if your painful urination is accompanied by symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • abnormal discharge
  • flank pain

The doctor may also want to know if the painful urination is accompanied by changes in urine flow, such as:

  • dribbling
  • difficulty initiating flow
  • increased frequency or need to urinate

And you may also be asked by your doctor if there are changes in urine character along with painful urination. These include changes in urine such as:

  • color
  • amount
  • blood in urine
  • pus in urine
  • cloudiness

Answers to these questions will give your doctor clues to the cause. You will likely need a urine test or other tests to confirm a diagnosis.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on May 04, 2012

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