Teach Me

Why Does It Burn When I Pee? 5 Possible Reasons

It’s normal to “feel the burn” in your muscles during an intense workout, but not when you pee. 

Experiencing a burning sensation when you pee can be uncomfortable and painful – to the point that you may delay going to the bathroom. However, you shouldn’t wait to get checked out by your health care provider.

“Burning or pain during urination, also called dysuria, is a frequent symptom that can have many underlying causes in people, both severe and less so,” said Samia Kadri, a family nurse practitioner with Banner Health. “It’s a signal that something isn’t right and needs addressing.”

Read on to discover five common reasons behind painful urination and what your treatment options might look like.

1. Urinary tract infection

The primary suspect for a burning or stinging sensation is a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Symptoms of a UTI can include burning with urination, urge to pee and hesitancy to go, and a frequent urge to urinate. It can also cause back and abdominal pain and cloudy and/or smelly urine. Some of these symptoms are also associated with a related condition called interstitial cystitis, so it’s important to visit your health care provider and give a urine sample for an accurate diagnosis.

“UTIs most commonly occur in the bladder via the urethra but can also occur in kidneys or a combination of these,” Kadri said. “Left untreated, it can lead to a serious kidney infection.”

UTIs and bladder infections account for 8.1 million health care visits each year. Those at greater risk of infection are people who are pregnant or menopausal, those with prostate problems, infants and older adults.

[Learn more about preventing UTIs.]

Treatment options

Your treatment will depend on which bacteria are grown from cultures, but a mainstay treatment is antibiotics.

If your provider prescribes antibiotics to treat your bacterial infection, remember to take the entire course even if you feel better.

2. Vaginal infections

Another reason it hurts to pee is due to an infection in the vagina. Since the opening of the vagina is so close to the urethra, it puts some people at greater risk for vaginal infections, such as vaginal yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. 

A yeast infection is a common fungal infection. Symptoms of a yeast infection include burning, itching, discharge (like cottage cheese) and discomfort. It’s often considered a health problem affecting people with vaginas, but yeast infections can affect anyone, including people with penises. 

Bacterial vaginosis is a common type of vaginal infection and occurs when the vaginal flora (the healthy bacteria inside the vagina) aren’t as plentiful and unhealthy bacteria take over. 

Treatment options

Treatment for yeast infections includes antifungals, such as oral pills, topical creams and vaginal pessaries (a device worn inside the vagina to support the pelvic organs). 

Treatment for bacterial vaginosis includes antibiotics, such as oral pills or topical gels or creams.

3. Sexually transmitted infection

If you are sexually active, and you’ve ruled out a UTI or yeast infection, the cause of your burning could be due to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). This may include infections like genital herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia. 

Some STIs can lead to pain during urination, pelvic pain and penile and vaginal discharge.  

Treatment options

Getting tested is the only way to know if you have an STI. 

“Testing is really important so that you can receive prompt treatment for the infection,” Kadri said. “Without treatment, it can put you at more serious risk for serious illnesses like pelvic inflammatory disease and even consequences like infertility due to permanent damage to your reproductive organs.”

4. Kidney stones

Kidney stones can lead to pain in many different areas, not just during urination. 

“Pain tends to be unilateral, meaning it originates in the upper/mid-back and radiates to the pelvis area,” Kadri said. “Pain may last 15 to 20 minutes and may come and go.”

These stones are hard deposits of minerals that form inside your kidneys. They occur when the minerals in concentrated urine crystalize and form stones. Certain conditions can put you at greater risk of developing them.

Treatment options

Most stones pass on their own when you urinate, especially small ones. Other treatment options may include:

  • Shockwave lithotripsy – the use of high-energy shock waves that break up stones and allow them to pass
  • Ureteroscopy – removal of the stone by inserting a small tube into the ureter 
  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy – removal of stones by inserting a small tube through the back and into the kidney 
  • Pyelolithotomy – a surgical procedure to remove stones from the renal pelvis

5. Menopause

Hormone changes during menopause can cause vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy is when the vaginal walls become thin, dry and inflamed due to a loss of estrogen. It can cause pain during sex as well as pain during urination. 

Treatment options

Several simple and effective treatment options for vaginal dryness include hormone replacement therapy tablets, topical estrogen in pessaries, vagina estrogen therapy, vaginal rings, vaginal cream and over-the-counter lubricants.

[Also read “Tips for Vaginal Dryness.”]

When to see your health care provider

In addition to the five health conditions above, other possible causes may be due to products you use, like douches or perfumed soaps, bubble bath, vaginal tears due to childbirth or sex or certain medications. 

Whatever the potential cause for the burning, see your health care provider if you’re having the following symptoms:

  • Pain that is not relieved from increased water intake
  • Pain that persists longer than 24 hours
  • Pain during sex
  • A fever
  • Foul-smelling or cloudy urine
  • Blood in your urine
  • Unexplained back pain


A burning sensation is expected during a hard workout but not when you go pee. Instead, it can be a sign of a bigger problem. Talk to your health care provider if your symptoms persist and if you experience additional symptoms and signs of infection.

Need help diagnosing and treating painful urination?

Save your spot at an urgent care near you.
Schedule an appointment with a primary care provider near you.

Related blogs

Gynecology Sexual Health Urology