Dysuria with Uncertain Cause (Adult)

Bladder showing ureter, bladder and urethra.

The urethra is the tube that allows urine to pass out of the body. In a woman, the urethra is the opening above the vagina. In men, the urethra is the opening on the tip of the penis. Dysuria is the feeling of pain or burning in the urethra when passing urine.

Dysuria can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the urethra. An infection or chemical irritation can cause this reaction. A bladder infection is the most common cause of dysuria in adults. A urine test can diagnose this. A bladder infection needs antibiotic treatment.

Soaps, lotions, colognes, and feminine hygiene products can cause dysuria. So can birth control jellies, creams, and foams. It will go away 1 to 3 days after using these irritants.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause dysuria. Your healthcare provider may take a culture sample. Your provider may start you on antibiotic medicine before the culture test returns.

In women who have gone through menopause, dysuria can be from dryness in the lining of the urethra. This can be treated with hormones. Dysuria becomes long-term (chronic) when it lasts for weeks or months. You may need to see a specialist (urologist) to diagnose and treat chronic dysuria.

Home care

These home care tips may help:

  • Don't use any chemicals or products that you think may be causing your symptoms.

  • If you were given a prescription medicine, take as directed. Take it until it is all used up.

  • If a culture was taken, don't have sex until you have been told that it is negative. A negative culture means you don't have an infection. Then follow your healthcare provider's advice to treat your condition.

If a culture was done and it is positive:

  • Both you and your sexual partner may need to be treated. This is true even if your partner has no symptoms.

  • Contact your healthcare provider or go to an urgent care clinic or the public health department to be looked at and treated.

  • Don't have sex until both you and your partner have finished all antibiotics and your healthcare provider says you are no longer contagious.

  • Learn about and use safe sex practices. The safest sex is with a partner who has tested negative and only has sex with you. Condoms can prevent STIs from spreading, but they aren't a guarantee.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If a culture was taken, you may call as directed for the results. If you have an STI, follow up with your provider or the public health department for a complete STI screening, including HIV testing. For more information, contact CDC-INFO at 800-232-4636.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • You aren't better after 3 days of treatment

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Back or belly pain that gets worse

  • You can't urinate because of pain

  • New discharge from the urethra, vagina, or penis

  • Painful sores on the penis

  • Rash or joint pain

  • Painful lumps (lymph nodes) in the groin

  • Testicle pain or swelling of the scrotum

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