Urination Pain

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What is urination pain?

Urination is the elimination of urine from the body and is normally a painless process. When urination occurs with pain, burning, pressure, or other types of discomfort, it is generally a symptom of an underlying disease or disorder. This can include infection, inflammation, or other conditions of the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra) or reproductive system. Urination pain is also known as dysuria.

Pain with urination, also called dysuria, can occur in the opening of the urethra, which is the opening where the urine leaves the body, or it can occur anywhere in a woman’s genital area, especially the vaginal opening. In both sexes, pain during urination may occur in the lower abdomen, the pelvic area, or flank area of the lower back.

Urination pain can occur in all age groups and populations, and it may or may not occur with additional symptoms, such as cloudy urine, bloody urine, urine color changes, foul-smelling urine, and frequent urination.

In some cases, urination pain can be due to serious or life-threatening underlying diseases, such as pyelonephritis (kidney infection). Seek prompt medical care if you have urination pain. Timely diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause reduces the risk of serious or life-threatening complications, such as kidney failure and shock.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have urination pain with severe abdominal or flank pain, or a change in consciousness or alertness.

What other symptoms might occur with urination pain?

Urination pain includes burning, pressure, or other types of discomfort before, during, or just after urination. Urination pain may occur in the urethra (the opening where urine leaves the body) as well as the bladder area in the lower abdomen or pelvis. Pain with urination may also occur in the flank or lower back, or a woman’s genital or vaginal area.

Urination pain may be accompanied by additional symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms can be due to problems in the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra) or the reproductive system.

Symptoms that may occur with urination pain include:

Abdominal, pelvic or flank pain (along your abdomen, side or back)

  • Abnormal coloring of the urine, such as dark, tea-colored, bloody, or pink-tinged urine

  • Cloudy or foamy urine

  • Fever

  • Foul urine odor

  • Frequent urination or a decrease in urination

  • Incontinence, leaking urine, or dribbling of urine

  • Nocturia (waking up at night to urinate)

  • Pain with sex

  • Rash, irritation or lesions on the genital area

  • Unusual vaginal or penile discharge

  • Urgency (a sudden intense need to urinate)

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition:

In some cases, urination pain can occur with symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms:

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

  • Change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations or delusions

  • Inability to urinate or dramatic decrease in urinating

  • Severe abdominal pain or flank pain (along your abdomen, side, or lower back)

What causes urination pain?

Urination pain, including burning, pressure, or other types of discomfort, is generally a symptom of an underlying disease or disorder, including infection, inflammation, or other conditions of the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra) or reproductive system.

Urination pain can be caused by:

  • Atrophic vaginitis (changes in the vagina due to menopause)

  • Bladder tumor or prostate cancer

  • Cervicitis (infection of the cervix by a sexually transmitted disease) or urethritis (inflammation or infection of the urethra)

  • Chemotherapy

  • Cystitis (inflammation or infection of the bladder)

  • Exposure of the genital area to irritating substances or allergens, such as perfumed soaps or spermicides

  • Genital herpes

  • Kidney stone

  • Long-term use of an indwelling bladder catheter, a tube that drains urine from the bladder

  • Prostatitis (inflammation or infection of the prostate gland)

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI), such as a bladder infection or kidney infection (pyelonephritis)

  • Vaginitis including yeast infections

What are the potential complications of urination pain?

Complications associated with urination pain vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Complications of untreated diseases, such as pyelonephritis, bladder cancer, and prostate cancer, can be serious and even life threatening. You can minimize the risk of serious complications of underlying causes of urination pain by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you.

Underlying causes of urination pain can lead to serious complications including:

  • Permanent kidney damage, kidney disease, and kidney failure (renal failure)

  • Septicemia (blood infection)

  • Shock

  • Spread of cancer (metastasis)

  • Urosepsis (severe urinary tract infection that has spread and led to systemic inflammation called sepsis)

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 13
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Frequent or urgent urination. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003140.htm
  2. Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024568/
  3. Urination – painful. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003145.htm