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Urethral Syndrome

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Urethral Syndrome

(Urethral Irritation)


The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder. Urethral syndrome is when a person has painful urination that is not related to an infection.

Female Urethra.

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The exact cause is not clear. Some possible causes are:

  • The presence of bacteria
  • Other urinary or genital problems, such as a narrow or blocked urethra, vulvodynia, or cystitis
  • Trauma during sex
  • Trauma during childbirth
  • Low levels of estrogen
  • Stress
  • Allergies to things like soaps or contraceptive gels
  • Mental health and relationship issues
  • Eating certain foods, such as citrus fruits, caffeine, alcohol, and hot or spicy foods

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in women who are 20 to 30 or 50 to 60 years of age. It is also more common in women who are White.

Things that may raise the risk of urethral syndrome are:

  • Giving birth 5 or more times
  • Having a vaginal birth without an episiotomy
  • Having 2 or more abortions
  • Pelvic organ prolapse


Problems range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain when urinating
  • Passing urine more often than usual
  • Feeling an urgent need to pass urine
  • Pauses in urine flow


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how long symptoms have been happening. A physical exam will be done. Urethral syndrome is only diagnosed after infections or other causes are ruled out with tests.

Tests may be done to look for signs of bacteria or infection. This can be done with:

  • Urine tests
  • Urine cultures
  • A vaginal culture

The pelvic area may need to be viewed. This can be done with tests such as:

A sample of tissue may be taken for testing. This can be done with a biopsy.


The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. Any underlying causes will need to be treated. It may take time to find the treatment that works best.

Some choices may be:

  • Counseling and behavioral therapy
  • Dietary changes, such as avoiding foods that make symptoms worse
  • Physical therapy, such as pelvic floor exercises
  • Medicine, such as over the counter or prescription pain relievers or estrogen cream


There are no known guidelines to prevent urethral syndrome.





  • Urethral syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/urethral-syndrome.
  • Urethral syndrome. Patient website. Available at: https://patient.info/doctor/urethral-syndrome.
  • Urethral syndrome in men. Tufts Medical Center website. Available at: https://hhma.org/healthadvisor/aha-uresynme-crs.
  • Urethral syndrome in women. Tufts Medical Center website. Available at: https://hhma.org/healthadvisor/aha-acuretsy-wha.
  • Urethral syndrome: symptoms, risk factors, treatment, and prevention. Urology of Virginia website. Available at: https://www.urologyofva.net/articles/category/urology/3152733/05/08/2019/urethral-syndrome-symptoms-risk-factors-treatment-and-prevention.


  • Mark S. Itzkowitz, MD, JD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.