Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(8):1597

What is dysuria—and what causes it?

Dysuria is a feeling of pain, burning, or discomfort when you urinate. (Say the word this way: diss-you-ree-ah). It is often caused by an infection in the bladder, vagina or urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside. You might get an infection in your vagina or urethra after you have sex, if you wipe the wrong way after a bowel movement, or if you wait a long time before you urinate.

You might have painful urination because of an injury or friction (rubbing) in the genital area,

Low female hormone levels and, rarely, allergies, stones in the urinary tract, or cancer can cause painful urination. People with some mental problems sometimes feel pain when they urinate.

How can my doctor find the cause of my dysuria?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, sexual practices, and other medical conditions. You may have a physical exam that includes your genital area.

Lab tests might be done on your urine or any vaginal discharge you may have. You might also have special x-rays or other tests.

What can be done to relieve the symptoms of dysuria?

If you have an infection, you will need to take medicine to treat it. If you have low female hormone levels, you can use an estrogen cream or take hormones. Using a lubricant during sex and wearing loose-fitting pants may relieve by friction.

How can I keep from getting dysuria again?

Here are some things you can do:

  • If you are a woman, don't use douches.

  • Wear cotton or cotton-lined underwear.

  • If you are overweight, lose weight.

  • Practice safer sex. Use condoms and have only one sexual partner.

  • Urinate right after you have sex.

  • Drink lots of fluids every day.

  • If you are a woman, hormone therapy after menopause may help.

  • If you are an older man, have a prostate exam each year.

  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar level under control.

  • If you are a woman, it may help to wipe from front to back after you urinate or have a bowel movement.

If you get dysuria again, see your doctor. Don't try to treat it yourself. It might have a different cause, and you could be using the wrong treatment.

If dysuria is caused by an infection that you got during sex, you should not have sex again until the infection is gone. Use a lubricant if your dysuria is caused by friction (rubbing). Ask your doctor if it is ok for you to have sex.

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