Various factors can cause urethra pain, such as a blockage or inflammation and irritation of the urethra. This can result in pain when urinating and conditions such as urinary tract infection, urethritis, and more.

The urethra forms part of the lower urinary system. It is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body.

Sometimes, the urethra can become inflamed and painful. In this article, we outline the possible causes of urethra pain and provide information on treatment options.

Causes of urethra pain can include:

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Symptoms of a UTI can include an urgent need to urinate and pain in the urethra.

A urinary tract infection (UTI) can affect any part of the urinary system, which includes:

  • the urethra
  • the bladder
  • the ureters
  • the kidneys

Usually, a UTI occurs when bacteria from the colon or rectum enter the urethra. Here, they may cause inflammation as the pain in the tries to fight off the infection.

Once inside the urethra, bacteria may multiply and travel up to the bladder. Doctors sometimes refer to this as bacterial cystitis.

Symptoms of a UTI include:

  • an urgent and frequent need to urinate
  • pain or burning in the urethra
  • pain while urinating
  • concentrated, cloudy, or strong-smelling urine
  • blood in the urine

In most cases, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat a UTI.

The following home remedies may also help:

  • drinking plenty of water
  • emptying the bladder frequently
  • consuming a healthful amount of vitamin C each day to increase urine acidity and prevent bacterial growth
  • avoiding spicy, acidic, and sugary foods, which can irritate the bladder
  • applying heat to the pubic area to relieve pain

To learn more about home remedies for UTIs, click here.

Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra. It usually results from a bacterial or viral infection.

Symptoms of urethritis include:

  • painful or difficult urination
  • itching
  • discharge containing mucus or pus

There are two types of urethritis, which are called gonococcal urethritis (GU) and nongonococcal urethritis (NGU).

The same bacteria that cause gonorrhea are responsible for GU, while NGU usually occurs due to chlamydia. Other causes of NGU include:

  • other bacterial infections
  • viral infections
  • damage to the penis
  • a urethral stricture, which is a narrowing of the urethra

Antibiotics are the standard treatment for bacterial causes of urethritis. If the underlying cause is a sexually transmitted infection, people should avoid having sex until they and any affected partners have completed antibiotic treatment.

Urethral syndrome is inflammation and irritation of the urethra that is not due to an infection.

This type of urethra pain may occur due to irritation from or sensitivity to:

  • bubble baths and soaps
  • perfumes
  • scented sanitary napkins
  • sexual intercourse
  • condoms
  • spermicides
  • contraceptive gels
  • douches
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy or exposure
  • injury to the urethra

Doctors will advise people with urethral syndrome to avoid suspected irritants. Treatment options may include pain-relieving medications and antispasmodics to reduce bladder spasms.

A urethral stricture is a narrowing of the urethra, which can restrict urine flow from the bladder. It usually involves scar tissue formation, which typically occurs due to an infection, other inflammation, or injury.

Symptoms of a urethral stricture include:

  • slow or painful urination
  • reduced urine output
  • occasional blood in the urine
  • incomplete bladder emptying

A doctor may carry out tests, such as urine flow testing and ultrasound imaging, to determine the position and severity of the stricture.

For minor strictures, a doctor may suggest a wait-and-see approach. For moderate or severe cases, they may recommend a surgical technique called dilation, which involves stretching the area of stricture.

They may need to remove the stricture and remodel part of the urethra.

Obstructive uropathy is a condition in which urine is unable to flow through the urinary tract due to a blockage in part of the urinary system. This blockage causes urine to flow backward through the system, possibly damaging one or both kidneys.

Causes of a blockage within the urinary tract include:

  • kidney stones
  • ureteral stones
  • bladder stones
  • enlarged prostate due to cancerous or benign growths
  • scar tissue in the ureters or urethra
  • problems with the nerves that control the bladder
  • congenital abnormalities

Symptoms of obstructive uropathy may include:

  • pain between the ribs and hip on one or both sides of the body
  • fever
  • nausea or vomiting
  • difficulty passing urine
  • incomplete bladder emptying
  • frequent urge to urinate, especially at night
  • urinary incontinence
  • blood in the urine

Treatment options can include:

  • stents or tubes to help drain urine from the kidneys
  • an indwelling urinary bladder catheter to assist urine flow
  • surgery to remove either the blockage or a severely damaged kidney
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Kidney stones can block the urinary tract.

When a person’s urine contains too little water and excess waste, the waste products can clump together to form kidney stones.

A very small kidney stone may move through the urinary tract without causing symptoms, but larger kidney stones can cause:

  • urethra pain
  • ureter pain
  • painful urination
  • blood in the urine
  • sharp pain in the back, sides, or lower abdomen
  • nausea and vomiting

The best treatment for a kidney stone depends on several factors, including its size, the severity of symptoms, and whether it is blocking the urinary tract.

A doctor may request blood, urine, and imaging tests to determine the best course of treatment. If the stones are small, a doctor may advise taking a pain-relieving medication and drinking plenty of fluids to dilute the urine and flush the stones out.

For large stones, a person may require:

  • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy: Shock waves of vibration break up the kidney stones into small pieces, enabling their passage through the urinary tract.
  • Ureteroscopy-guided stone removal: A doctor passes a ureteroscope into the ureter via the urethra. The ureteroscope guides a laser that breaks up large stones.
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy: A doctor inserts a tube directly into the kidney to remove the stone.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs.

PID occurs when a bacterial infection that starts in the vagina or cervix moves up into the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.

Sometimes, the bacteria responsible enter via the urethra, which may cause urethral pain.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • painful urination
  • abnormal discharge from the vagina or urethra
  • irregular menstrual bleeding
  • aching pain in the lower abdomen
  • pain during sex
  • fever and chills
  • nausea and vomiting

PID can cause scarring of the reproductive organs. Without treatment, it may cause long-term problems, including infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain.

A doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics for PID. In some cases, a person may need surgery to remove abscesses resulting from the infection.

Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland, which is a male reproductive organ that sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The prostate gland produces a fluid that contributes to semen.

A person can have acute or chronic prostatitis.

Acute prostatitis may result from a bacterial infection that initially developed in the bladder or urethra. Symptoms include:

  • pelvic pain
  • painful urination
  • painful ejaculation

Chronic prostatitis is ongoing prostate inflammation. Symptoms include:

  • persistent pain in the genitals or pelvic area
  • a heavy, aching, or full feeling in the prostate
  • painful ejaculation
  • frequent UTIs

Treatment for prostatitis may include:

  • antibiotics
  • pain-relieving medications, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen
  • alpha-1-blocking medication to dilate the prostatic urethra and allow stronger urine flow
  • 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor medication to reduce prostate size
  • surgery to relieve pressure on the urethra

The epididymis is a coiled tube within the testicle where the sperm mature. Epididymitis is inflammation of this tube with subsequent swelling and pain. It may feel like or lead to urethra pain.

Most cases of acute epididymitis are due to a bacterial infection. Other causes include:

  • enlarged prostate
  • partially blocked urethra
  • recent catheter use

Symptoms can include:

  • frequent need to urinate
  • pain or burning during urination
  • blood in the urine
  • pain in the penis, groin, lower abdomen, or flank
  • pain between the scrotum and anus
  • fever

A doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics to treat epididymitis. Other treatments may include:

  • anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • applying ice to the scrotum to reduce inflammation
  • surgery to remove the epididymis, in severe cases
  • drinking lots of fluid

A vaginal yeast infection occurs due to an overgrowth of the natural fungus called Candida. The main symptom is intense itching or burning in and around the vagina.

Other symptoms include:

  • vaginal inflammation, redness, or soreness
  • inflammation of the urethral opening, causing painful urination
  • pain during sex
  • a thick, white, odorless vaginal discharge

People can usually treat a vaginal yeast infection at home using over-the-counter antifungal medications. These are available as tablets, creams, ointments, and vaginal suppositories.

A doctor may prescribe a stronger antifungal medication, such as fluconazole, for persistent or recurrent infections.

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It is important to see a doctor to get treatment for vaginitis.

Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina due to irritants, infection, or a hormonal deficiency.

Most of the symptoms of vaginitis affect the vagina and surrounding vulva. However, it is also common for people with vaginitis to develop a UTI and pain in the urethra.

Symptoms of vaginitis vary depending on the cause but usually include:

  • vaginal itching, burning, or redness
  • pain or discomfort during sex
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • UTI symptoms

Vaginitis is not usually a serious health concern, but it is important to see a doctor to get treatment.

Treatment may include:

  • antifungal cream, ointment, or suppositories
  • antibiotics
  • estrogen cream
  • avoiding suspected irritants

Bladder cancer can cause various urinary problems, including urethra pain. However, other possible causes of urethra pain are more common, and cancer is very rarely the cause.

The first sign of bladder cancer is usually blood in the urine. Other symptoms of early-stage bladder cancer include:

  • frequent and urgent need to urinate, especially at night
  • pain or burning during urination
  • a slow or weak urine stream

Symptoms of advanced bladder cancer include:

  • inability to urinate
  • one-sided lower back pain
  • loss of appetite
  • unexplained weight loss
  • feeling tired or weak
  • swollen feet
  • bone pain

Treatment will depend on the stage of bladder cancer as well as a person’s overall health. Treatment options may include:

  • surgery to remove cancerous cells, parts of the bladder, or nearby lymph nodes
  • surgery to divert and collect urine after removal of the bladder
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • immunotherapy

Another type of cancer that may cause urethral pain is transitional cell cancer (TCC), which is a cancer of the transitional cells that line the length of the urinary tract, including the renal pelvis, ureter, bladder, and urethra.

The renal pelvis is the top end of the ureter, where urine arrives from the kidney.

Symptoms include:

  • painful or frequent urination
  • persistent back pain
  • blood in the urine
  • extreme tiredness
  • unexplained weight loss

Most TCCs of the renal pelvis and ureter are curable with an early diagnosis. Treatment depends on many factors, which include:

  • the stage, grade, and location of the tumor, including whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body
  • the health of the unaffected kidney
  • whether a person has had this cancer before

Treatment options may include:

  • surgery to remove all or part of the ureter or kidney
  • laser surgery to remove cancerous cells and tissues
  • chemotherapy

There are many different causes of urethra pain. Most often, it occurs as a result of an infection or an irritation due to environmental sources.

Sometimes though, urethra pain can indicate a serious, underlying medical issue.

People who experience persistent or worsening urethra pain should visit a doctor to get a thorough diagnosis.