Urethritis

Urethritis is an inflammation, infection, or irritation of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder.

  • Causes

    Urethritis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses, including:


    • Organisms that cause bladder or kidney infections:

      • E. coli
      • Klebsiella

    • Organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases (STDs):

      • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
      • Chlamydia trachomatis
      • Trichomonas vaginalis

      • Viruses such as herpes simplex, cytomegalovirus, or
        human papillomavirus

    • Other bacteria:

      • Ureaplasma urealyticum
      • Mycoplasma genitalium

  • Definition

    Urethritis is an inflammation, infection, or irritation of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder.

    Female Urethra
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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It will include a pelvic exam. Urethritis is usually diagnosed from its symptoms. Tests to confirm the diagnosis and identify the organism causing the condition may include:

    • Urethral swab for microscopic study or culture
    • Blood and urine tests
    • Specific tests for
      gonorrhea,
      chlamydia, or other STDs

  • Prevention

    Steps to prevent urethritis include:

    • Practicing safe sex by using condoms and barrier methods of contraception
    • Urinating immediately after having sexual intercourse
    • Treating all sexual partners who are infected or exposed
    • Regularly drinking plenty of fluids

  • Risk Factors

    Risk factors that increase your chance of getting urethritis include:

    • Sex: female
    • Multiple sexual partners
    • Recent change in sexual partners
    • Unprotected sex (without use of a condom)
    • History of other STDs
    • Bacterial infection of other parts of the urinary tract (bladder, kidney, prostate)
    • Medications that lower resistance to bacterial infection
    • Having catheters or tubes placed in the bladder
    • Acidic foods
    • Spermicides

  • Symptoms

    People with urethritis may not have symptoms, especially women. About half of men infected with
    chlamydia
    have no symptoms.

    Symptoms may include:

    • Pain and/or burning while urinating
    • Blood in the urine

    • Increase in urinary:

      • Frequency
      • Urgency
    • Itching, swelling, and/or tenderness in the groin
    • Pain during sex

    • In men:

      • Discharge from the penis
      • Blood in the semen
      • Pain during ejaculation
      • Swollen and/or tender testicles

    If left untreated, urethritis can spread and cause infection in other parts of the urinary tract such as the bladder, ureters, or kidneys.

  • Treatment

    Urethritis is usually treated with medication. The type of medication will depend on the cause of the urethral infection:

    • Antibiotics—to treat urethritis caused by bacteria
    • Antiviral drugs—to treat urethritis caused by a some viruses

    Refraining form sexual activity recommended until 7 days after initiation of therapy.

    If urethritis is caused by an STD, all sexual partners should be tested and treated.