The urethra is the tube that drains urine from the bladder. In men, the urethra is a long tube located inside the penis. In women, it is shorter and located inside 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 period of time, it is considered to be chronic.
Problems in the urethra can occur due to injury, tissue damage, infection, illness, or aging.
Causes of Pain in Urethra
Irritation temporarily may cause pain in your urethra. Sources of irritation include:
- bubble baths
- contraceptive gels
- douches or feminine hygiene products
- 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:
- bacterial or viral infection
- benign enlargement of prostate (BPH)
- bladder cancer
- bladder infection
- inflammation of the prostate
- kidney infection
- kidney stones
- low neutrophil count
- malignant neoplasm of ureter
- narrowing of the urethra
- non-bacterial prostate inflammation
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis
- prostate cancer
- sexually transmitted diseases
- urethral stricture
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
- urinary tract obstruction
- vaginal yeast infection
You will need to be able to describe your pain accurately in order to assist the doctor in diagnosing your problem. Symptoms that can accompany pain in the urethra include:
- inability to urinate
- frequent, urgent need to urinate
- burning sensation during urination
- blood in urine or semen
- unusual discharge
- unusual vaginal discharge
- fever and chills
Seek medical attention if you experience one or more of these symptoms along with pain in your urethra.
Depending on your symptoms, a variety of diagnostic tests may be ordered. In most cases, once the diagnosis is made, treatment will usually resolve the pain.
Diagnosing Pain in Urethra
Diagnosis will require a complete history and physical, including palpating (feeling) the abdomen for tenderness. For women, a pelvic examination may be necessary. It is likely that your doctor will also order a urinalysis and urine culture.
Depending on your symptoms and the results of your physical, additional tests that may help your doctor reach a diagnosis include:
- computed tomography (CT) scan
- kidney and bladder ultrasound
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- radionuclide scan
- tests for sexually transmitted diseases
- voiding cystourethrogram
Treatment for Pain in Urethra
Treatment will depend entirely on the diagnosis. If the diagnosis is infection, an appropriate course of antibiotics will be given. Drinking plenty of fluids and frequent urination may help speed your recovery. Other medications may include:
- pain relievers
- antispasmodics to control muscle spasms in the bladder
- alpha-blocking drugs to relax muscle tone
If an irritant caused your pain, you will be advised to avoid it in the future. Surgery can be an effective treatment for narrowing of the urethra.
Treatment of underlying conditions usually results in relief of pain.