Painful urination is a broad term that is used to describe discomfort experienced during urination. This pain may be caused by your:

  • bladder
  • urethra (the tube that carries urine outside your body)
  • perineum (in men, the area between the scrotum and the anus and in women, the area between the anus and the opening of the vagina)

Painful urination is very common. The pain, burning, or stinging can indicate a number of medical conditions.

Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) is a primary cause of urinary burning, stinging, and discomfort in men.

You may also experience pain when urinating if you have a sexually transmitted infection, such as genital herpes, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. It’s important to get screened for these infections if you are experiencing pain and have participated in risky sexual activities, such as having sex without a condom or with multiple partners.

Another cause of painful urination is cystitis, or the inflammation of the bladder’s lining. Interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome, is the most common type of cystitis. Symptoms include pain and tenderness in the bladder and pelvic region. The cause of IC is unknown.

In some cases, radiation therapy can cause bladder and urinary pain. This condition is known as radiation cystitis.

You may have difficulty urinating comfortably if you have kidney stones. Kidney stones are masses of hardened material located in the kidneys.

Sometimes, painful urination is not caused by an infection, but rather by products that are used on the genital regions. Soaps, lotions, and bubble baths can irritate vaginal tissues. Dyes in laundry detergents and other toiletry products can also cause irritation and lead to painful urination in those that are sensitive to them.


After taking your medical history and doing a physical exam, your doctor may request lab tests to help diagnose the cause of your symptoms. Once the cause of your painful urination is determined, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment.



In some cases, your doctor will prescribe medication to treat painful urination.

Antibiotics can treat UTIs, bacterial prostatitis, and treatable sexually transmitted infections. Your doctor may also give you medication to calm your irritated bladder.

Medications used to treat IC include:

  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • pentosan polysulfate sodium(elmiron)
  • acetaminophen (Tylenol) with codeine

Once treatment is started, painful urination that is caused by bacterial infections usually improves fairly quickly. You should always take the medication exactly as your doctor prescribes in order to have the best results and fully recover.

Pain associated with IC may be more challenging to treat. Results from drug therapy may be slower. In some instances, you may have to take medication for up to four months before you start to feel better.

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