Written on June 27, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Pain, burning, stinging, or itchiness during urination is a very uncomfortable urinary symptom.[1,2] It can interrupt your day and cause great distress. It affects many people; about 3% of adults over 40 years of age experience the symptom. Around 25% of United States women annually report acute painful urination. It is most common in women who are sexually active and in those who are 25 to 54 years old. Painful urination symptoms in men are more prevalent with increasing age.
Dysuria is the more technical term for painful sensation during urination.[1,2] It often indicates an infection or inflammation of the urinary tract or genital area. Dysuria usually happens when urine comes in contact with the inflamed or irritated urethral mucosal lining. This further aggravates detrusor muscle contraction and urethral peristalsis stimulating submucosal pain receptors and causing a painful or burning sensation during urination.
Urinary tract infections are one of the most common causes of dysuria.[1,2] Dysuria is categorized into infectious and non-infectious causes. Non-infectious causes comprise skin conditions, urinary tract stones, trauma, benign prostatic hypertrophy, tumors, interstitial cystitis, menopause, and certain medications. Urinary tract infections, prostatitis, vaginitis, and sexually transmitted diseases are classified as infectious causes of painful urination.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause painful urination and be a reason for concern. But what STDs cause painful urination? Here are four STDs that are known to cause dysuria.[1,2]
Chlamydia is an STD caused by infection with Chlamydia trachomatis. In the United States, chlamydia is the most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection. In 2018, there were 4 million chlamydial infections, as estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is most prevalent in young adults aged 15 to 24; two-thirds of all new chlamydial infections occur in this age group.
Most people with chlamydia have no symptoms, but it can cause painful urination, urinary frequency, abdominal and pelvic pain, and urethral discharge. In women, chlamydia can lead to permanent reproductive system damage, infertility, and ectopic pregnancies (pregnancy occurring outside of the womb).
Chlamydia can be passed from one infected person to another through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Additionally, chlamydia can be transmitted from an infected mother to their baby during childbirth.
Gonorrhea is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. Neisseria gonorrhoeae can infect the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women and the urethra in both sexes. The CDC reports that about 1.6 million new infections occurred in the U.S. in 2018.
Gonorrhea is the second most prevalent bacterial STD in the U.S. Most men and women with gonorrhea experience no symptoms; however, it can present with dysuria, urethral discharge, testicular pain, and vaginal infection. In women, gonorrhea can affect the uterus or fallopian tubes leading to pelvic inflammatory disease.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. The CDC reported approximately 2 million trichomoniasis infections in the U.S. in 2018. Trichomoniasis is more common in women than men, and older women are more likely to have the infection than younger women.
Most people who have the condition do not know they have the infection; only around 30% of people develop any symptoms. Symptoms of trichomoniasis can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation and include itching, irritation, burning, soreness of the genitals, painful urination, discharge from the penis, or foul odor from vaginal discharge.
Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex viruses, type 1 or type 2 (HSV-1 or HSV-2). In a year, the CDC estimates there are about 572,000 new genital herpes infections in the U.S. It is reported that 11.9% of people between the ages of 14 to 49 years have HSV-2, though the prevalence of genital herpes is increasing due to HSV-1 infection.
Most people with genital herpes have no to very mild symptoms and it often goes unnoticed. If symptoms occur, herpes lesions appear on or around the genitals, rectum, or mouth. Other symptoms can include painful urination, discharge from the urethra or vagina, or flu-like symptoms. 
If you are experiencing painful urination and suspect you were exposed to a sexually transmitted infection, you can take the Everlywell at-home STD test for women or STD test for men. These tests check for six sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. If you receive a positive result, a healthcare provider will connect with you to discuss treatment options, as applicable. Everlywell also offers a convenient way for you to quickly schedule an online STD treatment consult with a certified clinician to discuss your STD questions and concerns if you think you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease.