Urethral pain: Causes of burning and Itching

Urethral pain: Causes of burning and Itching
Photo source: Getty images

This symptom most often accompanies inflammation of the urinary tract. In addition to common inflammations, it also occurs in a group of sexually transmitted diseases. Pain in the urethra is also present in cases of urinary stones and cancer.

Urethral pain is closely associated with various problems, diseases and illnesses related to the urinary tract as well as the urinary organs. 

Usually behind this type of pain are various infectious, inflammatory or sexually transmitted diseases.

Their rapid diagnosis and early treatment depend on the patient being cured as quickly and effectively as possible. Conversely, with longer-term problems, there is a risk of complications.

What causes swelling, redness, burning or itching of the urethra? Can it occur after sexual intercourse? What other discomforts may be associated?

Inflammation of the urinary tract

In addition, urethral pain is a very common symptom due to inflammatory diseases as well, such as urinary tract infection (cystitis) and inflammation of the urethra(urethritis). Most often these inflammations affect women between the ages of 20 and 50.

model of the urinary tract
The most common cause of urethral pain is urinary tract inflammation. Source: Getty Images

In women, these inflammations are more common due to the fact that the urethra is shorter than in men. Bacteria spread more quickly higher up the urinary tract. Also, the location of the urethra in women is near the vagina and the anal opening.

And that is why infections with enterobacteriaceae from stool, such as E. Coli, concurrent genital tract infections, and the occurrence of urethral pain in sexually transmitted diseases are common in women and girls.

Another example is vaginal mycosis (candida yeast). Pain in the urethra is the first sign of mycotic inflammation of the vagina.

Risk groups for urinary tract infections are:

  • diabetics
  • women with weakened immunity, especially on the surface of the mucous membranes
  • pregnant women
  • people suffering from urinary incontinence
  • people with an inserted urethra
  • urinary stones
  • anatomical deviations of the urinary tract
  • babies in nappies

The infection returns repeatedly, even several times a year. It manifests itself with a rapid onset. Other symptoms are also present, such as urge to urinate and difficulty emptying urine and blood in the urine. Treatment is mostly with antibiotics.

Various bacterial infections in the urethra have painful manifestations. If neglected, they can also reach a chronic stage. Inflammatory diseases in particular must be treated professionally, with pharmacological agents designed for this purpose.

So, for this reason, it is very important not to neglect the pain in the urethral area. In the same way, various mechanical damages, which could have arisen even without knowledge or previous cause, also manifest themselves with such a symptom.

Sexually transmitted diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases that are associated with pain in the urethra include gonorrhoea, syphilis or chlamydia infections. Another example is an infection caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. The disease is called trichomoniasis.

Urethral pain is also a symptom of a sexually transmitted disease. Source: Getty Images.

Although they are sexually transmitted diseases, they are also transmitted asexually through contact with infected body fluids.

They are frequently transmitted through hygiene products such as towels, bath towels, electric shavers and shaving blades.

More common symptoms:

  • itching in the urethra 
  • pain as a sensation of burning or cutting when urinating
  • discharge from the urethra
  • increase in body temperature
  • redness
  • in women, accompanying vaginal pain

In cases of sexually transmitted diseases, early diagnosis and the start of treatment are essential. These infections are usually treated by the use of antibiotics and other pharmacological agents.

Urinary stones and urethral pain

Model of a kidney, urinary stones and kidney stones
When a kidney stone travels the sudden sharp pain is called renal colic. Source: Getty Images.

Kidney and ureteral stones are also associated with pain in the urethra. Over time, they pass from the kidneys into the urinary tract and can get stuck in the urethra.

But in the case of this disease, symptoms are already present beforehand. If they are ignored, the stakes are too high.

Treatment at a late stage, such as kidney stones, is much more painful, difficult and prolonged, which is ultimately only a negative for the patient.

In addition, pain can also occur with narrowing of the urethra. The narrowing occurs either in an accident, can also be congenital (inborn) or caused by surgery

Pain can also be manifested by bladder or prostate cancer in men. For a long time it is asymptomatic, and blood in the urine appears as the first symptom.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Signs & Symptoms

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Interesting resources

  • Enigma of urethral pain syndrome
  • Treatment of Urethral Pain Syndrome (UPS)
  • Dysuria: Evaluation and Differential Diagnosis in Adults
  • Doggweiler R, Whitmore KE, Meijlink JM, Drake MJ, Frawley H, Nordling J, Hanno P, Fraser MO, Homma Y, Garrido G, Gomes MJ, Elneil S, van de Merwe JP, Lin AT, Tomoe H. A standard for terminology in chronic pelvic pain syndromes: A report from the chronic pelvic pain working group of the international continence society. 2017 Apr;36(4):984-1008. doi: 10.1002/nau.23072. Epub 2016 Aug 26.

  • Abrams P, Cardozo L, Fall M, Griffiths D, Rosier P, Ulmsten U, Van Kerrebroeck P, Victor A, Wein A. Standardisation of Terminology of Lower Urinary Tract Function: Report from the Standardisation Sub-committee of the International Continence Society. Neurourol Urodyn 2002;21:167-78. (see Abrams et al. 2002).

  • IASP Classification of Chronic Pain, Second Edition (Revised). Descriptions of Chronic Pain Syndromes and Definitions of Pain Terms. 

  • Engeler D, Baranowski AP, Borovicka J, et al. European Association of Urology Guidelines on Chronic Pelvic Pain. 2016. Page 22. 

  • Cho ST. Is Urethral Pain Syndrome Really Part of Bladder Pain Syndrome?. Urogenit Tract Infect. 2017 Apr;12(1):22-27. Veit-Rubin, N., Cartwright, R., Esmail, A., Digesu, G. A., Fernando, R. and Khullar, V. (2017), The location of pain and urgency sensations during cystometry. Neurourol. Urodynam., 36: 620–625.

  • Fall, Magnus et al. (2010) EAU Guidelines on Chronic Pelvic Pain. European Urology, Volume 57 , Issue 1 , 35 - 48

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