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Medical Professionals

Professional Reference articles are designed for health professionals to use. They are written by UK doctors and based on research evidence, UK and European Guidelines. You may find the Lower urinary tract symptoms in women article more useful, or one of our other health articles.

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What is dysuria?

Dysuria is the symptom of painful micturition (urination). It is a very common presentation in primary care. Treatment depends on identifying the underlying cause. See separate related articles on Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Men and Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Women.

Aetiology1 2

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Dysuria assessment

See also the separate Genitourinary History and Examination (Male) and Genitourinary History and Examination (Female) articles.


Depending on the situation, possible questions are:

  • Pain symptoms:

    • Onset and duration of dysuria.

    • Whether there is abdominal pain. If it is present, consider abdominal pain causes - eg, appendicitis and ectopic pregnancy.

    • Radiation of pain (eg, to loin or back, suggesting upper urinary tract pathology).

  • Other symptoms:

    • Fever, rigors or malaise - suggest pyelonephritis.

    • Haematuria - occurs with infection, stones, neoplasms and renal disease.

    • Urethral or vaginal discharge - consider genital tract infection.

    • Odour - suggests bacterial infection.

    • Pruritus - common with genital candidiasis.

    • Frequency and urgency - indicate bladder irritation.

    • Urine volume and flow - consider obstruction.

  • Medical history:

    • Possible pregnancy.

    • Past history: previous UTI, other genitourinary disease, pelvic surgery or irradiation, other general illness, medication.

    • Recent sexual history; method of contraception; bear in mind the possibility of child sexual abuse.

    • Occupation: exposure to dyes and solvents is a risk factor for bladder cancer.


May not be required for simple situations - eg, if the history suggests uncomplicated lower UTI. If relevant, examine for:

  • Fever, tachycardia and loin tenderness (pyelonephritis).

  • Abdominal/pelvic tenderness, guarding, masses or adnexal tenderness; enlarged bladder.

  • Vaginal discharge: candidiasis, genital herpes simplex or vaginitis.

  • An enlarged prostate may be felt on rectal examination.

  • If child sexual abuse is suspected, specialist assessment is required.

Investigations5 6

Consider the appropriate level of investigation for the clinical picture, or whether to treat empirically. Investigations are generally required for children and men with dysuria but not always for women.

Possible investigations for dysuria

Depending on the clinical picture, these include:

  • Urine dipstick, microscopy and culture.

  • Considering whether a pregnancy test is needed.

  • Investigation for sexually transmitted infection (STI) - or referral to an STI clinic.

  • Ultrasound of the urinary tract, pelvis or abdomen if there is suspicion of obstruction or masses.

  • Plain kidney, ureters and bladder (KUB) X-ray if renal tract stones are suspected.

  • Urodynamic studies.

  • Urine cytology.

  • Further tests (eg, cystoscopy) require a specialist setting.

See also the separate Urinary Tract Infection in Children, Urinary Tract Infection in Adults and Imaging of the Urinary Tract articles.

Further reading and references

  • Wilbanks MD, Galbraith JW, Geisler WM; Dysuria in the Emergency Department: Missed Diagnosis of Chlamydia trachomatis. West J Emerg Med. 2014 Mar;15(2):227-30. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2013.12.18989.
  • Schmiemann G, Kniehl E, Gebhardt K, et al; The diagnosis of urinary tract infection: a systematic review. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2010 May;107(21):361-7. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2010.0361. Epub 2010 May 28.
  1. Macaluso CR, McNamara RM; Evaluation and management of acute abdominal pain in the emergency department. Int J Gen Med. 2012;5:789-97. doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S25936. Epub 2012 Sep 26.
  2. Rothberg MB, Wong JB; All dysuria is local. A cost-effectiveness model for designing site-specific management algorithms. J Gen Intern Med. 2004 May;19(5 Pt 1):433-43.
  3. Kim SD, Kim SW, Yoon BI, et al; The Relationship between Clinical Symptoms and Urine Culture in Adult Patients with Acute Epididymitis. World J Mens Health. 2013 Apr;31(1):53-7. doi: 10.5534/wjmh.2013.31.1.53. Epub 2013 Apr 23.
  4. Manikandan R, Kumar S, Dorairajan LN; Hemorrhagic cystitis: A challenge to the urologist. Indian J Urol. 2010 Apr;26(2):159-66. doi: 10.4103/0970-1591.65380.
  5. Diagnosis of UTI; GOV.UK, last updated October 2020
  6. Urological infections; European Association of Urology (2022)

Article history

The information on this page is written and peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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