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Pain in Urethra

The urethra is the tube that drains urine from the bladder. In men, the urethra is a long tube inside of the penis. In women, it’s shorter and located inside of the pelvis. Pain in the urethra may be dull or sharp, constant or intermittent, meaning it comes and goes. New onset of pain is called acute. When the pain continues for a long time, it’s chronic.

Problems in the urethra can occur due to:

  • an injury
  • tissue damage
  • an infection
  • an illness
  • aging

Causes of pain in the urethra

Irritation may temporarily cause pain in the urethra. Sources of irritation include:

  • bubble baths
  • chemotherapy
  • condoms
  • contraceptive gels
  • douches or feminine hygiene products
  • an injury due to a blow to the pelvic area
  • radiation exposure
  • scented or harsh soaps
  • sexual activity

In most cases, avoiding irritants will alleviate the pain.

Pain in the urethra can also be a symptom of a wide variety of underlying medical conditions, including:

  • inflammation, bacterial, fungal, or viral infections of the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, bladder, and urethra
  • inflammation due to bacterial or viral infections of the prostate or testes
  • inflammation due to bacterial or viral infections of the pelvis, which is called pelvic inflammatory disease in women
  • cancer of the urinary tract
  • obstruction, stricture, or narrowing of the urine outlet flow tract, which can occur due to kidney or bladder stones
  • epididymitis, or inflammation of the epididymis in the testicles
  • orchitis, or inflammation of the testicles
  • postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis, or vaginal atrophy
  • a vaginal yeast infection

Accompanying symptoms

You’ll need to describe your pain accurately to help your doctor diagnose the cause of your pain. Symptoms that can accompany pain in the urethra include:

  • itchiness
  • an inability to urinate
  • a frequent, urgent need to urinate
  • a burning sensation during urination
  • blood in the urine or semen
  • unusual discharge
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • a fever
  • chills

You should seek medical attention if you experience one or more of these symptoms along with pain in your urethra.

Your doctor may order a variety of diagnostic tests. In most cases, treatment resolves the pain once the doctor makes an accurate diagnosis and treats the cause.

Diagnosing the cause of pain in the urethra

You’ll need a complete history and physical. Your doctor will need to palpate, or feel, your abdomen for tenderness. If you’re a female, a pelvic exam may be necessary. It’s likely that your doctor will also order a urinalysis and urine culture.

Depending on your symptoms and the results of your physical exam, additional tests and imaging studies may help your doctor reach a diagnosis. They include:

  • a CT scan
  • cystoscopy
  • a kidney and bladder ultrasound
  • an MRI scan
  • a radionuclide scan
  • tests for sexually transmitted diseases
  • a urodynamic test
  • a voiding cystourethrogram

Treatment options

Treatment depends on the cause of your pain. If the cause is an infection, you may need a course of antibiotics. Drinking plenty of fluids and frequent urination may shorten how long you need to recover. Other medications may include:

  • pain relievers
  • antispasmodics to control muscle spasms in the bladder
  • alpha-blockers to relax muscle tone

If an irritant is causing your pain, your doctor will tell you to avoid it in the future. Surgery can be an effective treatment for narrowing of the urethra.

Treatment of the cause usually results in pain relief.

Content licensed from:

Written by: The Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Jun 29, 2016: Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D, MSN, RN, CRNA

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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