Causes of Stinging During Urination

The urinary system consists of two kidneys, two ureters to connect the kidneys to the bladder, the bladder to hold the urine and the urethra to connect the bladder to outside the body. An infection or other condition affecting any portion of the urinary system may cause pain while urinating, also referred to as dysuria. In addition to pain during urination, dysuria may cause a stinging, burning or mild discomfort while urinating in the urethra or the bladder. Females experience dysuria more often than males due to the shorter urethra and its proximity to the anus, which increases the risk of bacteria entering the urinary tract and causing an infection.

Close up on woman's legs and underwear on the toilet as she reaches for toilet paper. Credit: gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Lower Urinary Tract Infection

A common cause of painful urination is an infection of the lower urinary tract. This infection, also referred to as a bladder infection or cystitis, occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract. In addition to being female, risk factors for developing a bladder infection includes using a urinary catheter, pregnancy, urinary retention due to a nervous system disorder and an enlarged prostate in males.

Symptoms of a bladder infection include increased urinary frequency and urge, pain while urinating, cramping or pressure in the pelvis and cloudy urine. Antibiotics help treat cystitis. Interstitial cystitis, or a chronic inflammation of the lining in the bladder, can mimic symptoms of cystitis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Upper Urinary Tract Infection

An infection in the upper urinary tract, also referred to as a kidney infection or pyelonephritis, occurs due to a bladder infection that spreads up the ureters or from bacteria entering the kidneys though the blood stream. The infection may involve one or both kidneys.

Symptoms of pyelonephritis may include the same symptoms as cystitis in addition to pain in the lower back or side, fever and chills, as well as nausea and vomiting. Oral antibiotics treat mild kidney infections, but severe cases of pyelonephritis may require intravenous antibiotic therapy in a hospital for a few days before beginning oral therapy, according to the Merck Manuals.


Several conditions may cause an inflammation of the urethra, also referred to as urethritis. This inflammation can cause painful urination. Contact with irritating products such as a bubble bath, scented hygiene products, harsh soaps and spermicides may cause the inflammation of the urethra.

Sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and genital herpes, or irritation from a urinary catheter may also cause urethritis. Treating the cause of the inflammation will help resolve the inflammation of the urethra.

Vaginal Infections and Inflammation

Any infection involving the vagina may cause pain during urination. Common infections involving the vagina include a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis. Conditions that cause an inflammation of the vagina include irritating products such as soap, spermicide and low estrogen levels. Treatments vary depending on the cause of the condition.

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