What is dysuria (painful urination)?

Dysuria is pain or discomfort when you urinate (pee). It burns! Dysuria isn’t about how often you go (urinary frequency), though urinary frequency often happens together with dysuria. Dysuria is not a diagnosis. It’s a sign or symptom of an underlying health problem.

Who gets dysuria (painful urination)?

Men and women of any age can experience painful urination. It’s more common in women. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are commonly associated with dysuria. UTIs occur in more women than men.

Other people at a higher risk of dysuria include:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Men and women with diabetes.
  • Men and women with any type of disease of the bladder.

What are the symptoms of dysuria (painful urination)?

Symptoms of painful urination can vary between men and women, but both genders usually describe it as a burning, stinging or itching. Burning is the most commonly reported symptom.

Pain can occur at the start of urination or after urination. Pain at the start of your urination is often a symptom of a urinary tract infection. Pain after your urination can be a sign of a problem with the bladder or prostate. In men, pain can remain in your penis before and after urination too.

Symptoms in women can be internal or external. Pain outside your vaginal area may be caused by inflammation or irritation of this sensitive skin. Internal pain can be a symptom of a urinary tract infection.

How is dysuria (painful urination) diagnosed?

See your healthcare provider if you feel pain or burning when you pee. Dysuria can be a symptom of medical condition that may need to be treated. To diagnose your pain, first your healthcare provider will review your complete medical history, including asking you questions about your current and past medical conditions, such as diabetes mellitus or immunodeficiency disorders. He or she may also ask about your sexual history to determine if an STI could be the cause of the pain. Tests to screen for STIs may also be needed, especially if men have a discharge from their penis or women have discharge from their vagina. If you are a woman of childbearing age, a pregnancy test may be done.

Your provider will also ask about your current prescriptions and over-the-counter medication use and any tried “home remedies” to manage the dysuria.

Your healthcare provider will also ask you about your current symptoms and obtain a clean catch sample of your urine. Your urine sample will be analyzed for white blood cells, red blood cells or foreign chemicals. The presence of white blood cells tells your provider you have inflammation in your urinary tract. A urine culture reveals if you have a urinary tract infection and if so, the bacteria that are causing it. This information allows your provider to select the antibiotic that will work best in treating the bacteria.

If no sign of infection is found in your urine sample, your healthcare providers may suggest additional tests to look at your bladder or prostate (in men). Your provider may also take a swab sample of the lining of your vagina or the urethra to check for signs of infection (in women).

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/08/2020.

References

  • Merck Manual. Dysuria. Accessed 12/1/2020.
  • American Academy of Family Physicians. Painful Urination. Accessed 12/1/2020.
  • Wrenn K. Dysuria, Frequency, and Urgency. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, eds. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd ed. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 181. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed 12/1/2020.
  • Kurowski K. The women with dysuria. Am Fam Physician. 1998 May 1;57(9):2155-64, 2169-70. Accessed 12/1/2020.

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