If you’ve ever experienced a burning sensation when you urinate, you’ll know how unpleasant it can be. Although it’s not an uncommon issue for women to come up against, it’s not something you need to put up with.
To help you understand why this might be happening and how you can stop it, in this post we look at the possible causes and treatments.
What causes burning urine?
A range of infections and sources of irritation can cause this burning sensation, including:
Urinary tract infections
In many cases, this discomfort is a result of a urinary tract infection (UTI). These infections are usually caused by bacteria from faeces entering and travelling up the urinary tract. The bacteria move up the urethra, which is the tube that carries wee out of your body. Because women have a shorter urethra than men, they’re at a greater risk of these bacteria reaching the bladder or kidneys and causing an infection. As well as a burning sensation when you pee, the symptoms of a UTI can include needing to urinate more often than usual, cloudy or smelly wee, blood in your urine or pain in your lower tummy. You might also feel unwell and tired.
UTIs are usually treated with a course of antibiotics, and once you start treatment, the symptoms should clear up within 5 days. It’s not always possible to prevent these infections, but there are things you can do to reduce the risk of getting one. For example, always wipe front to back when you go to the toilet, try to empty your bladder fully when you pee and make sure you drink plenty of fluids. You should also pee as soon as possible after sex and choose underwear that’s loose-fitting and made from cotton - rather than tight designs made from synthetic materials.
Sexually transmitted infections
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are another possible cause of painful urination. These include Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Trichomoniasis and Genital Herpes. As well as a burning feeling when weeing, STIs can cause symptoms such as unusual vaginal discharge, sores around the vagina, itching and swelling, a rash, and bleeding between periods. If you’re experiencing symptoms like these and you’ve recently had unprotected sex, you should get tested.
If you test positive, your doctor or sexual health clinic will be able to advise you on the best treatment options. Most STIs can be resolved with a course of antibiotics, but unfortunately there is currently no cure for Genital Herpes. The symptoms of this infection should clear up by themselves, but the blisters that are caused by the infection can come back. This is called a recurrence or outbreak.
A common yeast infection, Thrush is usually harmless but it can be very uncomfortable. One possible symptom of this infection is a stinging sensation when you wee. It can also cause itching around the vagina and a white cottage cheese-like discharge. Thrush is treated with antifungal medicines, which can be taken in the form of a tablet, pessary or cream. The symptoms should clear up in around a week, but if you have recurring Thrush, you may need to take the treatment for longer.
Other causes of irritation
As well as infections like these, there are a number of things that can irritate and inflame your urinary tract or genital area, leading to pain when you pee. For example, if you have stones or a tumour in your urinary tract, this is likely to lead to discomfort when you urinate. Irritation of the urethra caused by sex can also cause pain when weeing, as can activities like cycling and horse riding. Another possible cause is irritation triggered by contact with overly scented soaps or bath liquids, douches, toilet paper or spermicides. Pain when weeing can be a side effect of certain medicines and supplements too, and vaginal changes that take place during the menopause may also have this effect.
Speak to your doctor
There’s no need to put up with pain when urinating. If you’re experiencing this problem, it’s important to find out why it’s happening so that you can get the treatment you need. Many of the causes of this problem are easy to treat, and as well as making everyday life more comfortable, getting treated will also help you to look after your health and wellbeing more generally.