Burning when urinating: causes and treatment

Burning when urinating can respond to infectious and non-infectious causes. We leave you with your triggers and treatment options.

Last update: January 03, 2022

Burning when urinating, also known as dysuria, is a frequent condition that millions of people suffer from. It is described as burning, itching or just when you urinate. Most cases manifest when urine comes in contact with the mucosal lining of the urethra walls. We show you its main causes and treatment.

When the urine interacts with the inflamed or irritated mucosa, a contraction of the detrusor muscle occurs and urethral peristalsis occurs. As a consequence, the submucosal receptors that cause pain, burning or itching are stimulated.. Find out what can cause this process and the options available to counteract it.

Main causes of burning when urinating

According to the researchers, the causes of painful urination are divided into infectious and non-infectious. Hundreds of conditions are described that can directly or indirectly generate this symptom. We leave you with five of the most frequent triggers.

1. Cystitis

As Harvard Health Publishing reminds us, bladder infections, also known as cystitis, are the main cause of burning when urinating. Cystitis is more common in women than in men. This is because the urethra is shorter and straighter., which makes it easier for pathogens to ascend to the bladder.

Most bladder infections are mild, so they are not associated with complications, last only a couple of days, and are easy to treat. Researchers warn that persistent or difficult-to-treat infections are associated with a suppressed immune system, kidney failure, pregnancy, anatomical abnormalities of the urinary tract, overactive bladder, and pelvic muscle deficiencies.

2. Urethritis

People with urethritis generally do not have a fever, low back pain, or bleeding in the urine. However, if the infection spreads, symptoms can be complicated.

Infections of the urethra, also known as urethritis, are other causes of pain when urinating. Most of these infectious processes that trigger inflammation of the urethra are caused by viruses and bacteria. For the reasons we have explained in the previous section, it is more common for women to develop this condition.

Having kidney stones, inflammation of the prostate, diabetes, pregnancy, and being an older adult increase the chances of developing urethritis. Often those who develop this condition present an increase in the frequency of urination, fever and changes in the patterns of the urine (smell, texture and color).

3. Sexually transmitted infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause burning when urinating. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, genital herpes, syphilis, and others may be behind these episodes.

Since all of these conditions may have no symptoms, you may only develop this sign regardless of other signs. As Johns Hopkins Medicine reminds us, increasing the frequency of sexual intercourse, especially with different partners, increases the chances of contracting STDs, STIs and other causes of burning when urinating.

4. Medicine intake

Any medicine you take can cause you to develop adverse effects. The ingestion of some of them can irritate or inflame the tissues that line the bladder or urethra. Therefore, it is possible that the causes of your burning when urinating are that you have started treatment for a different condition.

If you suspect that this is the case, you can review the package insert or consult a specialist about this side effect. In case you are self-medicating, seek competent medical attention on the feasibility of that medication to treat said condition.

5. Kidney stones

Kidney stones can also be behind these episodes. These are buildups of calcium or uric acid that harden in or around the kidneys, which can move to the lower urinary tract and cause painful urination. They can be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Lower back pain
  • Changes in the color of your urine (brown or pink).
  • Fever and chills
  • Urination with little volume, although very frequently.
  • Nausea and vomiting

Most stones are benign, and although they can cause pain and burning, they usually do not affect the urinary tract. When they are larger, you can choose to remove them surgically and other procedures to disintegrate them.

Other possible causes of burning when urinating that we cannot fail to mention are prostate infections, pyelonephritis, vaginitis, retention of foreign bodies in the urethra, ovarian cysts, trauma, tumors, menopause, chemical sensitivity and bladder cancer (when is delayed for several days and with moderate / severe symptoms).

Treatment for burning when urinating

There are many medications that can relieve burning when urinating. The use of antibiotics is especially common in the case of a urinary infection.

Treatment of dysuria varies according to the underlying cause. Since infectious processes are the most frequent, and these are generally mild, pain during urination should go away in a couple of days. Therefore, most people will not require treatment.

When symptoms are very acute, you should seek medical assistance to find the trigger for the heartburn. The specialist may prescribe antibiotics when it comes to a bacterial infection or use specific drugs for the condition that has been detected in the diagnosis. Remember that dysuria is not always related to a bladder or urethral infection, so you should avoid downplaying it.

As a complement, it is advisable to implement a series of changes in lifestyle to reduce the chances of similar episodes in the future. We leave you with some ideas:

  • Avoid using strong chemical or scented soaps that can irritate the genitals.
  • Use barrier contraception when having sex.
  • Avoid douching.
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  • Clean your genitals after having sex. It is also recommended to urinate immediately after the encounter.
  • Cut down on alcohol and coffee, two agents that often cause irritation.
  • Avoid wearing very tight clothing and changing your underwear to reduce interaction with bacteria.

In case you experience burning when urinating several times a year, do not hesitate to consult a specialist. Together you can find a trigger for the episodes, which will help reduce them. In general, having proper hygiene greatly prevents the development of this condition.

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