Pain When Urinating: Cause and Treatment

Pain, burning or discomfort felt while urinating is referred to as dysuria. It is usually felt in the urethra (the tube that transfers urine out of your urinary bladder) or in the perineum (the area around your genitals). Dysuria is more commonly present in females than in males. Moreover, in males, it is more common in the elderly than in younger males.

What Causes Pain When Urinating?

Some of the common causes of pain while urinating are:

1. Urinary Tract Infections

UTIs or urinary tract infections are one of the major causes of pain while urinating. Infections can occur in the kidneys, bladder, ureters or urethra. UTIs are mainly caused by bacteria which reach the urinary tract via the urethra. There are certain factors that increase your risk of developing a urinary tract infection, including:

  • Being a female
  • Having diabetes
  • Old age
  • Kidney stones
  • Enlargement of prostate
  • Pregnancy
  • Having an indwelling urinary catheter

Apart from pain while urinating, some of the other signs and symptoms of UTI are:

  • Increased temperature
  • Strong or foul smelling urine
  • Bloody or cloudy urine
  • Increased urge to urinate or urination frequency
  • Pain in the flanks

2. Vaginal Infections

Sometimes, pain during urination may be associated with a vaginal infection, including a yeast infection. However, with a vaginal infection, you may see other symptoms such as changes in vaginal odor and discharge.

3. Sexually Transmitted Infections

STIs (sexually transmitted infections) may also lead to pain when urinating. Some of these infections are: chlamydia, genital herpes and gonorrhea. Apart from painful urination, some other signs and symptoms of STIs are:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Sores or blisters in genital herpes

4. Irritation and Inflammation

Apart from the above infections, other conditions that may cause painful urination include:

  • Urinary tract stones
  • Urethral irritation from having sex
  • Interstitial cystitis or inflammation of the bladder
  • Changes in the vagina related to menopause
  • Doing activities such as bicycling or horseback riding
  • Vaginal irritation or sensitivity due to use of bubble bath or scented soaps, toilet paper or products such as spermicides or douches
  • Adverse effects of certain medicines, treatments and supplements
  • Urinary tract tumor
  • Inflammation or infection of the prostate gland (prostatitis)
  • Having a procedure performed on the urinary tract recently, including usage of urologic instruments for treatment or testing
  • Urethral infection (urethritis)

When to See a Doctor

Visit your physician if:

  • Pain when urinating is persistent.
  • You develop discharge or drainage from your vagina or penis.
  • You have blood in urine.
  • You develop a fever.
  • You develop flank pain or back pain.
  • You pass a bladder or kidney stone.

In case you are a pregnant female, tell your physician about any type of pain you are having while urinating.

What Kind of Tests Do I Require to Diagnose My Problem?

Your physician will diagnose the cause of your pain while urinating by the description of signs and symptoms associated with a physical exam. Your doctor will also order urine test for the type of infection you are suffering from. The urine test examines presence of red blood cells, white blood cells and certain chemical by-products of the bacteria. Usually, a urine sample is taken at the doctor’s office and will be sent to the laboratory for analysis.

If your physician thinks that your symptoms are from inflammation of the vagina, he/she may collect vaginal mucus by swiping your vaginal lining with a swab. The mucus will be visualized under a microscope to find the presence of yeast or other infection causing organisms.

If your pain when urinating is due to urethral infection, then your physician may swipe it to test for presence of bacteria and white blood cells. If infection is not the cause of your pain, your physician may suggest certain other tests including cystoscopy (it is a procedure to view the lining of the bladder with a very thin tube that is inserted via the urethra) or measurement of pressure in the bladder.

What Treatments Are Available?

Treatment depends on what’s causing the pain.

Antibiotics may be used to treat bacterial prostatitis, UTIs and certain STIs. Your physician may also prescribe medicine to calm your bladder irritation. Medicines that are used to treat interstitial cystitis include elmiron, tricyclic antidepressants, and acetaminophen with codeine.

Pain while urinating that is caused as result of bacterial infection usually gets better quickly after you begin taking antibiotics. Always follow the instructions of your doctor while taking medicine for best results.

Some tips to prevent pain while urinating are:

  • Drink large quantities of water daily to clean your system.
  • To decrease the risk of urinary tract infection, don’t hold urine. Instead, pass urine as soon as you feel the desire to urinate.
  • Avoid eating sugary and spicy foods. They may irritate your bladder lining, causing pelvic cramps and also put burden on your urinary bladder and kidneys.
  • Avoid drinking excessive amount of alcohol and caffeine containing beverages such as coffee and tea. They cause irritation of bladder and promote dehydration. Avoid eating citrus fruits and tomatoes.
  • Follow proper personal hygiene. After urinating, females should dry the area in the direction of front to back to prevent entry of germs into the urinary tract. You should change sanitary napkins regularly during periods.
  • Don’t use products such as oils, soaps or talc around the genitals as this may lead to irritation.
  • Practice hygienic and safe sex. Always pass urine after having intercourse to remove bacteria from the urethra.
  • Don’t wear tight clothes.
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