What is painful urination (dysuria)?

The term dysuria refers to any pain or discomfort associated with urination (peeing). It does not refer to urinary frequency (how often you go), though disorders of frequency can often be accompanied by dysuria.

Who experiences painful urination (dysuria)?

Men and women of any age can experience painful urination. It is more common in women. It is most commonly associated with urinary tract infections, which more often affect 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 causes of painful urination (dysuria)?

Painful urination for women can be the result of:

  • Vaginal infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Inflammation of the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder and genitals) or vagina that may be related to dietary factors

The inflammation may also be caused by sexual intercourse, douches, soaps, scented toilet paper, contraceptive sponges, or spermicides.

Female bladder and pelvic anatomy

Normal female anatomy

Painful urination for men may be the result of:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Prostate disease
  • Cancer

Male bladder and pelvic anatomy

Normal male anatomy

Painful urination for both genders may be the result of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or the side effect of medications. Chemotherapy cancer drugs or radiation treatments to the pelvic area may inflame the bladder and cause painful urination.

What are the symptoms of painful urination (dysuria)?

Symptoms of painful urination can vary between men and women, but both genders usually experience it as a burning, stinging, or itching feeling. The pain can be at the start of urination or after urination.

Pain at the start of urination is often the symptom of a urinary tract infection. Pain after urination can indicate a problem with the bladder or prostate. For many male patients, pain can persist in the penis before and after urination, too.

Symptoms for female patients can be internal or external. Pain on the outside of the vaginal area may be caused by inflammation or irritation of this sensitive skin. An internal pain can be a symptom of a urinary tract infection.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/27/2016.


  • Merck Manual. Dysuria. Accessed 2/8/2017.
  • 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 2/8/2017.
  • Kurowski K. The women with dysuria. Am Fam Physician. 1998 May 1;57(9):2155-64, 2169-70.

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