Dysuria: Evaluation and Differential Diagnosis in Adults

Am Fam Physician. 2015 Nov 1;92(9):778-86.


The most common cause of acute dysuria is infection, especially cystitis. Other infectious causes include urethritis, sexually transmitted infections, and vaginitis. Noninfectious inflammatory causes include a foreign body in the urinary tract and dermatologic conditions. Noninflammatory causes of dysuria include medication use, urethral anatomic abnormalities, local trauma, and interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome. An initial targeted history includes features of a local cause (e.g., vaginal or urethral irritation), risk factors for a complicated urinary tract infection (e.g., male sex, pregnancy, presence of urologic obstruction, recent procedure), and symptoms of pyelonephritis. Women with dysuria who have no complicating features can be treated for cystitis without further diagnostic evaluation. Women with vulvovaginal symptoms should be evaluated for vaginitis. Any complicating features or recurrent symptoms warrant a history, physical examination, urinalysis, and urine culture. Findings from the secondary evaluation, selected laboratory tests, and directed imaging studies enable physicians to progress through a logical evaluation and determine the cause of dysuria or make an appropriate referral.

Publication types

  • Patient Education Handout

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dysuria / diagnosis*
  • Dysuria / therapy*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / diagnosis
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / therapy
  • Urinary Tract Infections / diagnosis*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / therapy*
  • Vaginitis / diagnosis*
  • Vaginitis / therapy*