Dysuria: Causes & Treatments For Painful Urination

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Sometimes “going” doesn’t go so well. If you’ve never experienced pain when you’re urinating, the experience can be jarring. Dysuria is a relatively common experience and can be caused by many different factors.

Dysuria is the medical term for painful urination. Sometimes it can feel like simple discomfort, a burning sensation, or even 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 terribly serious problem. Most cases of dysuria are easily treated, but occasionally dysuria has a more complicated cause. If you’re experiencing symptoms of dysuria, make an appointment to see your healthcare professional.

Who is at risk of developing 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
  • Having 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

The symptoms of dysuria aren’t hard to spot. If you’re struggling with this condition, you’ll likely notice right away.

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

  • Pain while urinating
  • Burning sensation during or after urination
  • Urine that smells bad
  • Increased urinary frequency and/or a strong urge to urinate
  • Back pain
  • Flank pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Urge incontinence (leaking urine associated with a powerful urge to urinate)
  • Altered urinary microbiome

If you have any of these common symptoms of dysuria, talk to your doctor. 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. Dysuria caused by a urinary tract infection or STI is generally short-lived once you get antibiotics from your healthcare provider.

Potential Causes Of Dysuria

There are many causes of painful urination, from infections to an imbalance in the body’s microbiome. 

The causes of dysuria can include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Bladder infections
  • Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis infection), genital herpes, gonorrhea
  • Urethritis (inflammation of the urethra)
  • Imbalance of the body’s microbiome, or healthy bacteria that live in our bodies
  • Irritants around the urethra, like scented or harsh soaps

What causes dysuria? Bacterial infections cause dysuria most often, but other medical conditions can also cause painful urination.

In Women

Some common causes of dysuria affect women specifically. Vaginitis is the most common cause of female-specific dysuria. Vaginitis is a vaginal infection and inflammation that can be quite uncomfortable and painful.

Symptoms of vaginitis include changes in vaginal discharge, itching, and dysuria. It can be caused by a bacterial infection (bacterial vaginosis), a yeast infection, or in some cases, 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 medical exam, although it is most likely to occur in post-menopausal women due to low levels of estrogen and progesterone.

In Men

Men’s unique anatomy can also lead to cases of dysuria. Some of the causes of dysuria in men specifically include:

  • Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland)
  • 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.

How is dysuria diagnosed?

Dysuria is diagnosed by medical professionals. Your provider will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. They will also take a urine sample, run a urine culture to look for bacterial infections, or do a vaginal exam and swab test for yeast infections.

If you don’t have an infection and your physical exam was routine, your 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.

Treatment Options 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 dysuria 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.

Does dysuria go away? Yes, dysuria does go away in most cases if it’s appropriately treated by a medical professional.

Preventing Dysuria And Promoting Healthy Urination

Having dysuria can be challenging and painful. The good news: it’s possible to prevent dysuria naturally. A large part of dysuria prevention is keeping your urinary tract healthy. You should also practice safe sex and use condoms to avoid contracting any STIs that cause dysuria.

Probiotics

Dysuria may also be caused by changes in the urinary microbiome. Many health problems are caused by or linked to dysbiosis, or harmful changes to the microbiome. One of the best ways to treat dysbiosis is through diet.

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 dysuria. 

Diet

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 dysuria.

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 dysuria 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 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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