Dysuria: Causes, Symptoms & Self-Care at Home

Picture of Dysuria


What is Dysuria?

Dysuria is the medical term for pain or discomfort when urinating. Often described as a burning sensation, dysuria most commonly is caused by bacterial infections of the urinary tract.

Lower urinary tract infection (cystitis or bladder infection) Dysuria is a common symptom of a bladder infection (cystitis). Cystitis is very common in women aged 20 to 50.

Dysuria is the feeling of pain, burning, or discomfort upon urination. Although dysuria frequently indicates the presence of a urinary tract infection (UTI), it can have a variety of causes. Dysuria should always trigger a visit to a health-care professional for evaluation and diagnosis.

Dysuria is common, accounting for a significant percentage of visits to a primary-care doctor. Symptoms occur more commonly in women, especially in young women and people who are sexually active. Most of the time, dysuria will be caused by a simple urinary tract infection, but a complete evaluation by a health-care professional is necessary for proper diagnosis, especially if the symptoms reoccur.

Causes of Dysuria

There are several reasons a person may have dysuria. The most common cause is a form of a urinary tract infection, or UTI. When bacteria enters the body, it can quickly multiply and become very irritating to the urinary tract. This can lead to infections in the urethra, bladder, and kidney. It can even cause prostate infections in men.

One of the most common bacteria that causes UTI’s is Escherichia coli, commonly known as E. coli, which is found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Because there is a shorter distance between the urethra and the rectum in women, bacteria from the GI tract can easily get into the urinary tract. This is the reason women are more likely to have UTI’s more than men.

Irritation, trauma, and obstruction to the urinary system are other issues that can lead to dysuria. A person may be sensitive to certain soaps, detergents, lotions, and perfumes that can stimulate an allergic reaction in the urethra. There are also injuries from catheter placement, lesions, or any disruption of the tissue that can cause discomfort when coming in contact with urine.

Extreme pain from medical conditions that block or reduce urine flow are seen in people with kidney, urethral, and bladder stones. Cancers of the urinary tract that produce tumors can also cause painful urination.

Symptoms of Dysuria

Depending on the cause of dysuria, there may be other symptoms in addition to pain when urinating. Symptoms can include:

  • Lower urinary tract infection (cystitis) — Frequent urination, an intense urge to urinate, loss of bladder control, pain in the lower front portion of the abdomen (near the bladder), cloudy urine that may have a strong odor, bloody urine
  • Upper urinary tract infection (pyelonephritis) — Pain in the upper back, high fever with shaking chills, nausea and vomiting, cloudy urine, frequent urination, an intense urge to urinate
  • Urethritis — A discharge from the urethra, redness around the opening of the urethra, frequent urination, vaginal discharge. Partners of people with urethritis that comes from a sexually transmitted disease often will not have any symptoms.
  • Vaginitis — Pain, soreness or itching in the vagina, an abnormal or foul-smelling vaginal discharge or odor, pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse

Dysuria Treatment

The most common cause of dysuria is a urinary tract infection. Infections are treated with antibiotics. Based on the current pattern of urinary tract infections in your community, your health-care professional will chose the optimal medication. If a culture indicates that bacteria are present that are resistant to the initial antibiotic, your doctor might change the medication once the results of the culture are known.

If the cause of the dysuria is not infectious, your health-care professional may order further tests and treatments.

Self-Care at Home

Dysuria usually requires an evaluation by a health-care professional and should not be treated without medical supervision.


Your medical professional will chose the optimal medication for your condition. If it is an infection, an antibiotic will be prescribed and you should take the full course of the medication, even if you feel better.

Pain medication is sometimes given in the form of a general analgesic or a specific product that will numb the pain in the urinary tract. It is important to follow the instructions for these products closely