Feeling the Burn?

By Riva Preil

Burning pain with urination (dysuria)…urinary urgency and frequency…sounds like a urinary tract infection (UTI), right? Not necessarily!  Even though UTIs are one of the most common reasons for women to visit their doctor (an estimated seven million visits per year, in fact!), they are not always the culprit.  When a urine culture’s results are negative despite the classic symptoms described above, it is believed that the individual has urethral syndrome.

Urethral syndrome can be subcategorized as follows:

  1. “Pure” urethral syndrome- this is believed to be a type of vulvodynia.  The individual may report a spasm sensation surrounding the urethra or near the vagina as well as a burning or stinging sensation with urination.
  2. Interstitial Cystitis (IC)- inflammation of the bladder due to unknown cause. Unfortunately, antibiotics do not help treat IC. IC is diagnosed through a test called cystoscopy, which is involves filling the bladder with fluid while under anesthesia to assess its integrity. IC is strongly correlated with vulvar vestibulitis, and the two often accompany each other.
  3. Certain sexually transmitted infections (such as chlamydia, herpes, and gonorrhea) may also urethral irritation.

Please talk to your doctor if you think you may be experiencing any of the above. Burning and irritation may not be what you think it is, and your health care provider can help you with proper diagnosis and treatment. As with all pelvic floor disorders, physical therapy is a wonderful tool to treat the musculoskeletal related changes associated with any of the urethral syndromes.

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