8 Things to Know About Painful Urination

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Hanes, RN on February 3, 2021
  • Clean white toilet and toilet paper in bathroom
    What to Do When It Hurts to Pee
    At some point in their lives, most people experience at least one episode of painful urination: burning or stinging when going to the bathroom. Known medically as dysuria, the condition is very common among people of all ages, though women tend to experience a higher rate of painful urination than men do. When it hurts to pee, what can you do? Since many underlying medical issues can cause dysuria, you should seek a diagnosis if the urination pain lasts more than a day or two, if the pain is severe, or you are avoiding liquids so you don’t have to pee as much. Learn more about what causes painful urination—and how to find relief.
  • Cropped image of woman's legs sitting on toilet
    1. The main cause of painful urination in women? Urinary tract infection.
    Women tend to experience painful urination more often than men do simply because of their anatomy. In women, the urethra (the opening through which urine passes out of the body) is located close to the rectum. This proximity to where stool comes out can allow bacteria to travel from the bowel to the urinary tract—where they don’t belong. These bacteria can grow rapidly inside the urethra or even the bladder itself and cause a urinary tract infection (UTI). Your doctor can perform a simple urine test to determine if you have a UTI—and treat it with antibiotics, if necessary.
  • Young couple kissing while lying in bed
    2. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs or STIs) can cause painful urination.
    In addition to UTIs caused by fecal bacteria, both women and men can develop a UTI and painful urination due to a sexually transmitted infection. STDs like gonorrhea can irritate and inflame the urethra, and herpes lesions can cause sharp pain if they come in contact with urine. Using spermicidal jelly or a latex condom also can irritate genital tissues and subsequently make urination painful. If you experience painful urination after having sex, see a doctor promptly to find out what’s causing it.
  • Sick woman taking her temperature
    3. You shouldn’t ignore a fever that accompanies painful urination.
    Seek medical attention quickly if you develop a fever with the symptoms of painful urination: lower abdominal pain, flank (side) pain, difficulty starting or stopping the urine stream, or burning and stinging when you urinate. Fever can indicate a serious infection that requires rapid medical intervention. Left untreated, bacterial infections of the urethra can reach the bladder or even the kidneys causing severe discomfort and even organ damage. If it hurts to pee and you have a fever, see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
  • woman with tummy ache and toilet paper
    4. Painful urination with blood is not always serious.
    It’s true that painful urination with bloody urine can be a sign of a serious medical condition like bladder cancer. But sometimes a routine urinary tract infection can cause bloody urine too. If it hurts to go to the bathroom and you notice a pink tinge to your urine, or if your urine contains bright red blood, go to the doctor as soon as possible for an evaluation. Chances are good the cause is minor and a course of antibiotics will solve the problem if you have a bacterial infection.
  • View from outside bathroom of man in flannel pants urinating in toilet
    5. Prostate problems can cause painful urination in men.
    Sometimes, the symptoms of painful urination aren’t caused by an issue with the urethra or bladder directly. In older men, an inflamed prostate gland (‘prostatitis’) can make it difficult or painful to urinate because the gland is positioned around the urethra, between the bladder and penis. An enlarged prostate also can make it harder to start or stop the urine stream. Prostatitis is a noncancerous condition often caused by an infection, which can be treated with antibiotics or other medications. Men who experience painful urination should see their doctor for an evaluation that includes examining the prostate gland.
  • Cropped side view of woman sitting on toilet with head in hands
    6. Vaginitis is a common cause of painful urination in women.
    Several gynecologic issues can cause painful urination in women. Commonly, vaginitis—inflammation of the vaginal tissues—can produce pelvic pain that mimics the discomfort of a urinary tract infection. Bacterial vaginitis, yeast infections, and even atrophic vaginitis (vaginal dryness) in postmenopausal women all can make it hurt to urinate. Inflammation of the cervix (‘cervicitis’) can cause painful urination too. If it hurts to pee and you have vaginal discharge, see a doctor for a diagnosis and to start appropriate treatment.
  • Young man sitting with back pain
    7. You shouldn’t ignore flank pain accompanied by painful urination.
    Sometimes painful urination is caused by kidney stones or other conditions that affect these delicate organs. If your symptoms include flank pain (pain in the your back or sides especially if it radiates around to the upper abdomen), nausea, vomiting, or the inability to pass any urine at all, you should seek immediate medical attention. A kidney stone that blocks the urethra must be treated rapidly to avoid permanent organ damage. Fortunately, medication and noninvasive procedures can treat most kidney stones.
  • Doctor and patient speaking
    8. Your doctor can help you get painful urination relief.
    If you are experiencing bladder pain, burning or stinging, you should first seek diagnosis and treatment from a doctor. Treating the underlying cause of the urinary pain is the only way to get long-lasting relief. When you see the doctor, ask him or her if it’s safe for you to take a medication called phenazopyridine. This drug is available without a prescription and numbs bladder tissue to reduce pain. Be aware phenazopyridine will turn your urine dark red-orange and can stain undergarments. This is normal and does not indicate your condition is worsening.
8 Things to Know About Painful Urination in Men & Women

About The Author

As “the nurse who knows content,” Elizabeth Hanes, RN, works with national and regional healthcare systems, brands, agencies and publishers to produce all types of consumer-facing content. Formerly a perioperative and cosmetic surgery nurse, Elizabeth today uses her nursing knowledge to inform her writing on a wide variety of medical, health and wellness topics.
  1. Dysuria. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/symptoms-of-genitourinary-disorders/dysuria
  2. Urine and Urination. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Institutes of Health. https://medlineplus.gov/urineandurination.html
  3. Urination – Painful. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Institutes of Health. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003145.htm
  4. Painful Urination. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/urinary-tract-infections-causes-painful-urination/
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Last Review Date: 2021 Feb 3
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