Dysuria: Causes & Treatments For Painful Urination

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What is dysuria? Dysuria is the medical term for painful urination. Sometimes it can feel like simple discomfort, a burning sensation, or itching as you urinate. Patients feel dysuria either in the urethra or around the urethral opening.

Painful urination can be concerning, but it’s generally not a severe problem. Most cases of dysuria are easily treated. If you’re experiencing symptoms of dysuria, make an appointment to see your healthcare professional.

Who can develop painful urination (dysuria)?

Women are more likely to develop dysuria than men, in part because they’re more likely to develop urinary tract infections. The female urethra is shorter than a male’s, and it’s easier for bacteria to make their way up the female urinary tract into the bladder and cause infections.

Other groups who are at higher risk of developing dysuria include:

  • Diabetics
  • People who get kidney stones
  • Anyone who has a urinary catheter
  • Older people
  • Young children who haven’t learned good hygiene habits yet
  • Men with enlarged prostates
  • Pregnant women
  • People with a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • People with interstitial cystitis

Even if you don’t have these risk factors, you can still develop dysuria.

Common Dysuria Symptoms

What are the symptoms of dysuria? The symptoms of dysuria are:

If you have any of these common symptoms of dysuria, seek medical advice. You should be screened for a urinary tract infection, which needs antibiotics.

How long does dysuria last? Dysuria lasts a few days on average, but some cases can last longer depending on the cause. A urinary tract infection or STI is generally short-lived once you get antibiotics.

How is dysuria diagnosed?

Healthcare providers diagnose dysuria by taking your medical history and performing a physical examination. They will perform a urinalysis with a urine culture to look for bacterial infections or do a vaginal exam and swab test for pathogens.

If you don’t have an infection and your physical exam is routine, your family doctor may run additional tests to rule out other causes of dysuria. These tests can include imaging the urinary tract with an MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound imaging.

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Potential Causes Of Dysuria

What is the main cause of dysuria? Bacterial infections cause dysuria most often, but other medical conditions can also cause painful urination.

The causes of dysuria can include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Bladder infections
  • Douches or bubble baths
  • Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Sexual activity (especially sexual intercourse)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis infection), genital herpes, or gonorrhea
  • Hematuria 
  • Urethritis (inflammation of the urethra)
  • Dysfunction of the body’s microbiome
  • Irritants around the urethra, like scented toilet paper or harsh soaps
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (in rare cases)
  • Medications, including those used to treat bladder cancer

Causes in Women

Vaginitis is the most common cause of dysuria for females. Vaginitis is a vaginal infection and inflammation that can be uncomfortable and painful.

Symptoms of vulvovaginitis include changes in vaginal discharge, itching, and dysuria. It can be caused by a bacterial infection (bacterial vaginosis), a yeast infection or trichomoniasis.

Vaginitis can also be caused by hormonal changes in the body, a condition called atrophic vaginitis. One of the core symptoms of atrophic vaginitis is dysuria. 

It’s challenging to distinguish atrophic vaginitis from infectious vaginitis without a differential diagnosis, although it is most likely to occur in postmenopausal women due to low levels of estrogen and progesterone.

Causes in Men

Men’s urinary tract anatomy can also lead to cases of dysuria. Causes in men specifically include:

  • Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland)
  • Obstruction in the ureter
  • Epididymitis
  • Urethral stricture (narrowing of the urethra)

To treat these issues, you may need to see a specialist in urology. Your urologist will run tests to see if any of these conditions are causing your dysuria. Your doctor will also rule out any more serious causes of urinary problems like prostate cancer.

Treatments For Dysuria

Treatment for dysuria depends on its root cause. If a bacterial infection caused your dysuria, a course of antibiotics should clear it up. Dysuria caused by a yeast infection can be cleared up with a course of antifungal medication.

If your dysuria is not caused by an infection, there are still medications that can help. These medications treat the cause of your dysuria. For example, some men may benefit from taking alpha blockers for their prostatitis.

Other treatments for it include avoiding heavily perfumed soaps and personal care products, drinking more water, and improving personal hygiene (keeping your genital area clean and changing feminine products frequently).

How do you treat dysuria? You treat dysuria by first visiting your doctor, who will determine if your dysuria is caused by an infection or another condition. Your doctor will then prescribe an appropriate treatment for your unique case.

Common treatments for dysuria include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungal medication
  • Alpha blockers 
  • Avoiding strongly scented products
  • Increasing hydration
  • Strengthening your personal hygiene
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Gut healing protocols to correct any microbial imbalances which led to infections

The treatment prescribed for you will be determined by the cause of your dysuria.

Preventing Dysuria And Promoting Healthy Urination

It’s possible to prevent dysuria naturally in many cases. A large factor in prevention is keeping your urinary tract healthy. You should also practice safe sex and use condoms to avoid contracting any STIs that cause painful urination.


It may also be caused by changes in the urinary microbiome. Many health problems are caused by or side effects of dysbiosis (harmful changes to the microbiome). One of the best ways to treat dysbiosis is through dietary changes.

There are very effective ways to promote and maintain your body’s microbiome through diet. Probiotics are a great way to treat and prevent urinary problems, including urinary tract infections. They can also help to prevent vaginosis and vaginal yeast infections that can cause it. 


You can also promote urinary health by eating the right foods. Many chronic health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can be treated through diet. A diet rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals lets the body function properly, preventing health issues naturally. 

Avoiding refined sugar and carbohydrates, which tend to feed yeast and inflammatory bacteria in the gut and throughout the body, is also imperative. 

Your overall diet is also crucial for urinary tract health. Diet has been shown to influence kidney stone formation, and kidney stones are linked to dysuria. 

The best diet to prevent kidney stones depends on the type of stones your body forms. A functional medicine specialist can help you create a list of foods to eat and avoid to keep your kidney stones under control.

Patients with dysuria due to interstitial cystitis should follow an interstitial cystitis diet. There are many foods and drinks that can cause an interstitial cystitis flare-up, and avoiding those foods can help prevent symptoms, including it.

Interstitial cystitis diets should also include foods that promote healthy immune function, like foods rich in anti-inflammatory compounds. Pro-inflammatory foods can aggravate autoimmune conditions like interstitial cystitis. Anti-inflammatory foods promote your overall health, too.

Stay Hydrated

One of the best ways to prevent lower urinary tract symptoms is to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps maintain the health of your urinary tract, and it helps you empty your bladder regularly, which can ease some symptoms of dysuria.

Cranberry Supplements

Cranberry supplements are an effective way to promote urinary health. Cranberry is famous for its ability to fight urinary tract infections. It can also directly reduce the symptoms of dysuria. 

Researchers think the tannins and polyphenols in cranberries fight bacteria in the urinary tract. They may keep bacteria from sticking to the inside of the bladder or lower urinary tract, which keeps those bacteria from colonizing and causing an infection.

Interstitial cystitis patients should talk to their doctor before adding cranberry to their diet. In many cases, cranberry can actually make interstitial cystitis symptoms worse and can even cause a flare-up, due to being acidic.

Concerned about dysuria? Let’s talk.

We have urinary health specialists on our medical team at PrimeHealth. If you’re a Colorado resident experiencing dysuria symptoms or want a plan to maintain your urinary tract health naturally, we can help. Click here to schedule a free phone consultation and learn more about our urinary health services.


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