Painful urination, also known as dysuria, refers to pain, discomfort, or burning that can be felt when urinating (peeing). This pain may be felt anywhere in the urinary tract, like in the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra, and is often felt when urine comes into contact with internal lesions or sores. It can be a constant irritation or can occur intermittently when irritants are introduced to the external urethral opening (such as during intercourse or when clothing or other objects come in contact with the area). Burning can begin suddenly or gradually grow in intensity over a period of time.1
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For men, painful urination can be caused by a variety of factors, but some of the most common causes are prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and UTIs (urinary tract infection).
The following are non-sexual causes for painful or burning urination:2
The common bacterial STDs gonorrhea and chlamydia are both infamously associated with painful urination. Chlamydia often occurs simultaneously with gonorrhea in what is called a co-infection. Both infections can be cured when treated with antibiotics, often in a single dose.
Genital herpes, ureaplasma, and trichomoniasis are STDs which also can cause dysuria. While the bacteria that cause UTIs may be acquired through sex, urinary tract infections are generally not considered STDs.
Causes of burning or painful urination that can be passed sexually:8
Anatomical differences between males and females can cause differences in the likelihood of certain conditions and how they affect you.7 For example, because females have shorter urethras (the opening where urine exits the body), it’s easier for bacteria to enter the bladder, making UTIs in women more common than in men. Common STD symptoms like discharge can also be more difficult for women to notice.
To determine the cause of painful urination, a doctor may ask questions about your symptoms and potentially your sexual history. If they suspect an infection, they may also order certain tests to aid in the diagnosis, such as urinalysis or STD tests. If you believe your painful urination is caused by an STD, you can skip the time and cost of a doctor visit and quickly take our full 10 test STD panel. If tested positive, we have doctors available who can provide consultation and even write prescriptions for certain STDs.
The method of treatment for painful urination depends on the cause. Because dysuria is so often caused by bacterial infections, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics for treatment. STDs that cause painful urination (like chlamydia and gonorrhea) can also be treated, but only if they are identified. Getting tested for STDs is the best way to narrow down the cause of irritation. Frequent STD testing is the only way to be sexually active and be completely sure of your STD status.
Medically Reviewed by Kaci Durbin, MD, MBA, FACOG on June 1, 2023Written by Taysha on June 1, 2023