Urethral Pain: Everything You Need to Know

What is the Urethra?

The urethra is a tube through which urine leaves the body from the bladder. In males, the urethra is a long tube inside the penis which also transports semen. In females, it is much shorter and is located in the pelvis. This article explains the causes, diagnoses, and treatment of urethral pain to help you address this distressing health issue. 

Causes of Urethral Pain

The feelings of discomfort can often be described as a burning sensation or sharp pain in the urethra. There are many different reasons for experiencing pain in the urethra however, the most common causes include: 

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) 

  • Urethritis 

  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

  • Irritation 

  • Trauma or injury 

  • Urinary Tract Obstruction 

  • Cancer 

  • Vaginal Causes

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra, causing an infection. Both men and women can experience UTIs however they are more common for females as it is easier for bacteria to go from skin to bladder due to the shorter urethra length and its proximity to the anus. People with UTIs may experience bladder and urethral pain together. People may also experience: 


Urethritis is a condition where the urethra becomes inflamed and irritated due to a bacterial infection. Urethritis is not the same as a UTI as urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra, while a UTI is an infection of the urinary tract. Urethritis can be caused by STIs, such as: 

  • Gonorrhea - Can cause pain in the urethra, penile and vaginal discharge. 

  • Chlamydia - Can cause penile and vaginal discharge, pain in the urethra after ejaculation, and vaginal pain with intercourse. 

  • Mycoplasma genitalium Men can experience watery, penile discharge and a stinging sensation whilst urinating. Women can experience vaginal discharge and pain (sometimes bleeding) during sex.

Urinary Tract Obstruction

When something blocks the urethra, it causes a build-up of urine which can stretch the surrounding tissue, this can lead to urethral pain. Causes of urethral obstruction include: 

  • Urethral Stricture - A narrowing of the urethra, which can restrict urine flow from the bladder. Usually involves forming of scar tissue, which typically occurs due to infection or injury. 

  • Enlarged gland - This can press on the urethra and can also cause urinary incontinence. 

  • Tumours - Growths from ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, bladder cancer, or prostate cancer can compress the urethra causing obstruction. 

  • TraumaImpact or injury to the pelvic area can trigger urethral inflammation, causing pain or irritation. 

  • Kidney stones Can block the urethra, causing pain whilst urinating and not being able to fully empty the bladder. 

Trauma and Injury

Damage or trauma can lead to pain in the urethra. Some examples of trauma include: 

  • Injury to the pelvic area 

  • A medical procedure like such as a cystoscopy 

  • Sexual activity

Vaginal Causes

Urethral irritation and pain can occur for women due to: 

  • Spermicides 

  • Soaps/body washes 

  • Sexual intercourse 

  • Yeast Infections 

  • Bacterial Vaginosis – Symptoms include vaginal discharge and a strong odour from the vagina. 

Treatments for Urethral Pain

The course of treatment will always depend on the cause of urethral pain. The most common treatments include: 

  • Antibiotics: STIs causing urethral pain are typically treated with a course of antibiotics. UTIs are also usually treated with antibiotics.

  • Antivirals: Herpes is treated with antiviral medications. Partners must be tested and treated as well. 
  • Surgery: If a tumour is pressing on the urethra, surgery may be required to remove it.

Preventing Urethral Pain

There are measures you can put in place yourself to prevent the common causes of urethral pain. Many of the bacteria that cause urethritis and, consequently, urethral pain can be passed through sexual contact. Therefore, practising safe sex is an important preventive measure. To help reduce your risk: 

  • Avoid having sex with multiple partners. 

  • Always use a condom during sex.

  • Get tested regularly. 

  • If you test positive for an STI, inform your previous and current partners. 

Other ways to maintain good urinary tract health are: 

  • Drinking plenty of fluids. 

  • Urinating after sex.

  • Avoiding acidic foods. 

  • Avoid exposure to spermicides. 

Urethral pain can be caused by many things including STIs, UTIs and Obstructions. You should visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. If one of your symptoms includes unpredictable urine leaks, then take a look at our pads for both men and women to help you feel secure and comfortable. Read through this article for more information on urinary tract health and infections. 


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/pain-in-urethra 

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/urethritis 

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324617#urethritis 

  1. https://www.verywellhealth.com/urethral-pain-4174285