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:
douches or feminine hygiene products
injury due to a blow to the pelvic area
scented or harsh soaps
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)
inflammation of the prostate
low neutrophil count
malignant neoplasm of ureter
narrowing of the urethra
non-bacterial prostate inflammation
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis
sexually transmitted diseases
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 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)
tests for sexually transmitted diseases
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:
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.