Dysuria is the medical term used to describe painful or difficult urination. The discomfort is usually characterized by a burning sensation. Most individuals who complain of painful or burning urination have a urinary tract infection.
There are many health conditions that can cause dysuria. Urinary tract infections are usually a common cause of dysuria in women, while prostate problems and urethritis often cause painful urination in men.
Anyone at any age can experience dysuria. However, the condition is more commonly seen in women because women are more prone to having urinary tract infections than men. Other individuals who are at an increased risk of dysuria are women with recurrent UTIs, pregnant women, women with diabetes, and individuals with bladder problems.
The following are some of the common causes of dysuria:
One of the primary causes of dysuria is urinary tract infections.The infection may affect any part of the urinary system, which includes the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. UTIs are usually caused by bacteria that invade the urinary system through the urethra.
The factors that increase an individual’s risk of developing urinary tract infections are:
- Being female
- Having a urinary catheter
- Kidney stones
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Old age
Aside from dysuria, other symptoms of a urinary tract infection are:
- Cloudy urine
- Hematuria (blood in urine)
- Urinary urgency and frequency
- Flank pain
- Foul-smelling urine
In some cases, dysuria is associated with a yeast infection, which is a type of vaginal infection. Like urinary tract infections, vaginal infections are also characterized by vaginal discharges and an unusual vaginal odor.
2. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
These infections also cause dysuria.They include chlamydia, genital herpes, and gonorrhea. Aside from experiencing dysuria, STIs also cause other symptoms, such as burning, genital itching, unusual discharge, and sores or blisters in genital herpes.
3. Irritation and Inflammation
The urinary system or genitals can be irritated or inflamed due to a variety of causes. Aside from simple urinary tract infections, other causes include:
- Urinary tract tumors
- Urinary tract stones
- Medication, treatment, and supplement side effects
- Bladder pain syndrome (BPS) or interstitial cystitis (IC)
- Physical activities such as mountain biking or horseback riding
- Urethral syndrome due to sexual activity
- Vaginal changes associated with menopause
- Vaginal irritation or sensitivity that is associated with the use of scented bubble baths or soaps, spermicides, douches, toiletry items, and detergents with harsh chemicals
When to See a Doctor
Schedule an appointment and consult a healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent painful urination
- Unusual vaginal and penile discharge or drainage
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Passing a kidney or bladder stone
- Back pain or flank pain (pain on one side of the body)
- Painful urination during pregnancy
The doctor usually asks about your specific symptoms and your personal or sexual activities. You will also undergo a physical examination, wherein the doctor would check for any tenderness on your back near the kidneys as well as a genital examination. A pelvic exam may also be performed on women, while a digital rectal exam may be done for men with suspected prostate problems.
A urinalysis (urine test) can be done in the doctor’s office to confirm if you have a simple urinary tract infection. However, when diagnosing vaginitis and urethritis, a sample must be collected from the affected area using a swab. The collected sample is taken to the laboratory for further testing.
When a kidney infection is suspected, a urine sample will be sent to the laboratory for culture to identify the specific microorganism that’s causing the infection. A blood sample can also be collected, especially if you have high fever or appear weak. Your blood will be sent to the laboratory for further testing.
If you are experiencing dysuria and often have unprotected sexual intercourse with multiple partners, the doctor may order a standard STD panel testing.
The treatment for dysuria usually depends on the cause of pain. The doctor would prescribe medications for the treatment of the underlying issue, which in turn, would help solve the issue of painful urination. Antibiotics are known to help in treating urinary tract infections, certain sexually transmitted diseases, and bacterial prostatitis. The doctor may also prescribe medications to calm down or relax the bladder.
Some of the medications that are used for treating interstitial cystitis are acetaminophen or Tylenol, pentosan polysulfate sodium, codeine, and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). If the individual is suffering from dysuria due to an infection, then the pain would improve rather quickly once antibiotic medications are started. Make sure to always take the medications as prescribed by the doctor to have a faster recovery. Do not increase or decrease the dose of your medications without your doctor's advice.
- Vaginitis – Antibiotics are the primary treatment for bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis. When it comes to yeast infections, antifungal medications are usually prescribed, which can be oral, topical, or suppository in form.
- Pyelonephritis (kidney infection) and cystitis – These are bacterial infections that can be treated using oral antibiotics. However, hospitalization is often required in severe cases of pyelonephritis with symptoms of high fever, vomiting, and chills. In such cases, antibiotics are intravenously administered along with close monitoring.
- Urethritis – This infection is also treated using antibiotics, and the type of antibiotic used will also depend on what causes the infection.
If you are treated for dysuria due to a sexually transmitted disease, it is highly recommended that your sex partners be treated as well.
To prevent dysuria due to pyelonephritis or cystitis, drink several glasses of water every day to effectively flush out bacteria from the urinary tract. Females should also wipe from front to back after each bowel movement. After sexual intercourse, women must urinate as soon as possible to flush any bacteria that may have gone near the urethra. By doing this preventive measure, it will help prevent bacteria from invading the urinary bladder.
To prevent dysuria due to irritation, women should keep their genital area clean and dry. Tampons or sanitary napkins must be frequently changed. Try to stay away from scented laundry detergents, irritating soaps, douches, vaginal sprays, and other toiletries. In female children, avoid frequent bubble baths to prevent vulva irritation. To help prevent dysuria due to STDs, always practice safe sex.