Pain when urinating

Pain when urinating is an extremely common problem that affects both sexes but is more common in women. However, as men get older their risk increases.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021


Pain when urinating has a wide range of possible causes, ranging from minor to potentially serious. It can range from mild discomfort to a stinging or burning sensation or severe pain. As with any unexplained and persistent symptoms, it’s important to get it checked out with a doctor.

Causes of pain when urinating

There are many possible causes of pain when urinating.


  • Chemicals in products such as perfumed soaps, toiletries, lubricants, condoms and feminine hygiene products
  • A poorly fitting contraceptive device
  • Side effects from some drugs


  • Urinary tract infections – you may feel unwell, notice pain in your lower abdomen, on one side or your back, and your urine may look cloudy or smell
  • Some sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and genital herpes
  • Non-sexual infections affecting your genitals such as thrush (candida) in both sexes, or bacterial vaginosis in women
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease, a bacterial infection in women, which also causes pain in your lower abdomen


  • Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome – a painful inflammation of the bladder that isn’t caused by an infection
  • Prostatitis – inflammation of the prostate gland

Other problems

  • Hormonal changes at the menopause – leading to dryness and thinning of vaginal tissue causing a stinging or burning sensation when urinating
  • An enlarged prostate gland can prevent you from properly emptying your bladder, causing pain or discomfort when urinating
  • Kidney stones, which can get stuck in your kidney or ureter, the tube that carries urine to your bladder, causing an obstruction or infection
  • Bladder stones, which may form if you have problems emptying your bladder properly
  • Cancer of the bladder or urethra

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Getting a diagnosis for pain when urinating

Your doctor will probably:

  • Ask you questions about any symptoms you may have and your medical history
  • Take a urine sample to detect infections and inflammation
  • A physical examination of your abdomen and pelvic area, including the prostate gland for men

Other possible tests include:

  • Vaginal swabs to test for infections
  • Tests for sexually transmitted infections, if relevant
  • An ultrasound scan or X-ray to detect blockages such as kidney stones or abnormal growths
  • A cystoscopy, which involves inserting a thin, flexible tube through your urethra and into your bladder to look inside and check for potential causes of pain

Treatments for pain when urinating

These will vary, according to the cause of the problem.

Lifestyle changes

Avoiding potential irritants in products such as perfumed soaps, toiletries, lubricants, condoms and feminine hygiene products can help. Your GP may also recommend changing prescription medication if the cause is a side effect of a particular drug.


  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • Antifungal cream or pessaries for thrush
  • Antiviral medication for viral infections such as genital herpes
  • Over-the-counter medications if the cause is interstitial cystitis
  • Moisturisers or hormone replacement cream for menopausal symptoms

For more serious causes such as an enlarged prostate, kidney or bladder stones, or cancer, your GP or consultant will recommend treatment for your condition.