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Urethritis is a condition in which the urethra, or the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body, becomes inflamed and irritated. Semen also passes through the male urethra.

The primary cause of urethritis is infection by bacteria. Typically, urethritis will cause pain during urination. It also causes an increased urge to urinate.

Urethritis is different from a urinary tract infection (UTI). It is an inflammation of the urethra, while a UTI is an infection of the urinary tract. They may have similar symptoms, but methods of treatment differ, depending on the underlying cause of the urethritis.

Urethritis affects people of all ages, and it is a condition that affects both males and females. Females however, have a greater chance of developing the condition than males. This is so because men's urethras, are much longer than women's (the length of the penis). A woman's urethra is just about one and a half inches long, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the urethra.


  • Burning and pain remains the most common symptoms of urethritis.
  • Long-term problems might lead to infertility or urethral blockages (strictures).
  • Urethritis may be caused by the germs that cause sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or the germs that cause urinary tract and the symptoms of these conditions may be similar.
  • Men between 20-35 years of age, and men who have multiple sexual partners or those who engage in high-risk behaviors such as not using condoms or anal intercourse are at highest risk for developing infectious urethritis.


There are different types of urethritis, classified by the cause of the inflammation.

They are either gonococcal urethritis or non-gonococcal urethritis.

  • Gonococcal urethritis is caused by the same bacterium that causes the STI gonorrhea. It accounts for a significant percentage of urethritis.
  • Non-gonococcal urethritis is caused by other infections that are not gonorrhea related. Chlamydia is a common cause of non-gonococcal urethritis, with other STIs also being probable causes.

It is possible, however, for irritations that may be unrelated to STIs to occur. These could be caused by injury (e.g. from a catheter), or other kinds of genital trauma.

While plenty of patients have either one type of urethritis or the other, it is actually possible to have different causes of urethritis at once. This is especially true among women.


Two sexually transmitted diseases gonorrhea and chlamydia actually cause the majority of cases of infectious urethritis. The other cause of urethritis can be the virus that causes herpes and other infections transmitted during sexual activity.

Temporary pain in the urethra can be caused by chemical irritation from soaps, lotions, and colognes. Irritation can also be caused by spermicide in condoms and contraceptive jelly, cream, or foam.

Physical manipulation of the penis or minor traumas may lead to urethritis. Medical procedures, rubbing on rough clothing, as well as vigorous sexual activity or masturbation could also cause temporary irritations of the urethra.

Sometimes ejaculation (though rare) can cause a temporary feeling similar to urethritis. This usually goes away in a brief period without any specific treatment.

Chronic urethritis (i.e. when the condition lasts for weeks or months or goes away and comes back) may be caused by bacteria, or a narrowing of the tube (urethra) itself.

According to the experts, bacteria associated with urethritis include:

  • Mycoplasma genitalium
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • Chlamydia trachomatis

The biological agents that cause illnesses are known as Pathogens. It is the same pathogens that cause STIs that also cause urethritis. These include the bacteria that cause gonorrhea and chlamydia and the parasite that causes Trichomoniasis.

Some viruses can also cause the development of urethritis. These include the herpes simplex virus (HSV), the human papillomavirus (HPV), and the cytomegalovirus (CMV).


Symptoms in men

Males with urethritis may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Discharge from the penis
  • Presence of blood in the semen or urine
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Itching or burning near the opening of the penis

Symptoms in women

Symptoms of urethritis in women include:

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Discomfort during urination
  • Burning or irritation at the urethral opening
  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina may also be present together with the urinary symptoms

Especially true for women, some people who have urethritis may also not have any noticeable symptoms. Symptoms may not be apparent in men, if the urethritis developed as a result of chlamydia or occasionally from Trichomoniasis infection.

For this reason, it is absolutely important to undergo testing if one may have been infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI).


For temporary, mild urethritis that comes from using a new soap or lotion, it may not be necessary to see the health-care provider. Other cases of urethritis however may need to be checked.

In case one experiences pain with urination following a medical procedure, the physician must be contacted to discuss the need for evaluation or treatment. This is because the pain may be an expected side effect of the procedure, or it may signify the beginning of an infection.

People must note that all other cases of burning with urination require medical attention within 24 hours.

Urethritis may probably not be an emergency, however one will want to get relief promptly. In case one experiences other signs of illness, such as fever, nausea, vomiting, back, and abdominal pain, emergency care may be needed. The symptoms could mean the infection has moved beyond the urethra, thus becoming a potentially serious condition that requires immediate evaluation by a doctor or an emergency department.

If there is an object lodged in the urethra or another injury to the penis, immediate medical care must be sought at a hospital's emergency department. Such situations can easily deteriorate into a life-threatening infection.


People who are more likely to experience urethritis include those who:

  • Engage in high-risk sexual behavior
  • Have a history of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Oral sex may be a risk factor for non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU), according to some studies
  • Urethritis is not always sexually transmitted, but a person with multiple sexual partners has a greater risk of exposure.

It is recommended that any patient with confirmed or suspected urethritis should also undergo tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia. This will enable people to inform their partner, who may also need to be tested and treated. It can also encourage patients to adhere to treatment


A doctor may achieve a diagnosis with a careful and critical appraisal of the patient's medical history and symptoms.

If the patient has painful urination, the doctor may assume the presence of an infection and proceed to treat it with antibiotics right away while waiting for test results.

Tests can help confirm the diagnosis of urethritis and its cause. Tests for urethritis can include:

  • Physical examination, including that of the genitals, abdomen, and rectum
  • Urine tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or other bacteria

Examination of any discharge under a microscope

Often times, blood tests are not necessary for the diagnosis of urethritis, however blood tests may be done in certain situations.


Most cases of urethritis are caused by Infections.

If one seem well otherwise, antibiotics are used.

Various treatments are available.

Sometimes one will be given an antibiotic injection.

The duration of treatment ranges from one to 14 days.

In cases of a sexually transmitted infection, antibiotics are used routinely.

In this situation, all sexual partners also require treatment.

There should not be any sexual activity otherwise condoms should be used until all partners have completed medical therapy.

Anyone with signs of severe infection that has spread throughout the body may require admission to a hospital for IV antibiotics.


Home care for urethritis relieves its symptoms.

To reduce the pain one feels when urinating it is advised to drink plenty of fluids to dilute the urine.

People may take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen) and acetaminophen for pain control.

With the burning associated with chemical irritant urethritis, sitz baths may help. To take a sitz bath, fill the tub with warm water, just enough to cover the genitals while sitting in the tub. Try these a few times a day and do not use soap or anything else in the bathtub as that may irritate already sore areas.


Prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including urethritis, demands for total abstinence from sexual relations and/or the use of condoms, or other forms of barrier protection.

People must endeavor to avoid Irritants that cause skin or urethral inflammation. They must be able to identify the soaps, lotions, colognes, or detergents that lead to urethral irritation, and stop using them.

For women:

  • Avoid tight clothes in the genital area, (e.g. control-top pantyhose and tight jeans). Wet bathing suits should be taken off right away.
  • The use of irritating cosmetics or chemicals in the area of the vagina and urethra must be abated. This will include, strong soaps, feminine hygiene sprays or douches, and scented napkins or panty liners.
  • Keep the vaginal area clean. Wipe from front to back after using the toilet. Be sure to wash the genital area gently after each bathe or shower. However, only mild, unscented soap must be employed.
  • Wear underwear that is all cotton. Pantyhose should also have a cotton crotch. Cotton allows better air circulation than nylon. Change underwear and pantyhose inform the healthcare provider if there is a history of urinary tract problems during pregnancy.
  • To help prevent tissue thinning and dryness, older women may consider using estrogen vaginal cream
  • Chemicals, or other irritants that cause redness, burning, or itching in the genital area must be avoided.
  • The use of latex or polyurethane condoms during sex will help prevent infection with an STD must be paramount.
  • Avoid any chemicals (including scents, colors, or flavors in condoms) before or during sex.
  • It is preferred for one to have just 1 sexual partner who is not sexually active with anyone else. Ensure that or partner has been tested for gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases.

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