Urethritis is a condition in which the urethra, or the tube
that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body, becomes inflamed and
irritated. Semen also passes through the male urethra. Urethritis typically
causes pain while urinating and an increased urge to urinate. The primary cause
of urethritis is usually infection by bacteria.
Urethritis affects people of all ages. Both males and females
can develop the condition. However, females have a greater chance of developing
the condition than males.
Are the Symptoms of Urethritis?
Symptoms in Men
Males with urethritis may experience one or more of the
- a burning sensation while urinating
- itching or burning near the opening of the penis
- the presence of blood in the semen or urine
- discharge from the penis
Symptoms in Women
Some symptoms of urethritis in women include:
- a more frequent urge to urinate
- discomfort during urination
- pain in the abdominal area
- a high body temperature
- a more urgent need to urinate
- an abnormal discharge from the vagina
People who have urethritis may also not have any noticeable
symptoms. This is especially true for women. In men, symptoms may be silent if
the urethritis developed as a result of chlamydia or occasionally
For this reason, it’s important to undergo testing if you may
have been infected with an STI.
Generally, most cases of urethritis are the result of a
bacteria or virus. The same bacteria that can cause bladder and kidney
infections can also infect the lining of the urethra. Bacteria found naturally
in the genital area may also cause urethritis if they enter the urinary tract.
According to the Centers for
Disease Control (CDC), bacteria associated with urethritis include:
- Neisseria gonorrhoeae
- Chlamydia trachomatis
Pathogens are the biological agents that cause illness. The same
pathogens that cause sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can also cause
urethritis. These include the bacteria that cause gonorrhea and chlamydia and
the parasite that causes trichomoniasis.
There are also viruses that can lead to the development of urethritis.
These include the human papillomavirus (HPV), the herpes simplex virus, and the
Is Urethritis Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. They’ll likely
also examine the genital area to make a diagnosis.
They may order tests to analyze a urine sample or a swab taken
from the urethra or vaginal area. If the doctor suspects a specific STI, there will
likely be a test that can allow the doctor to confirm or rule out that
What Are the Treatment Options for Urethritis?
Treatment for urethritis typically includes a course of either
antibiotics or antiviral medication. Some common treatments for urethritis
If an STI caused the infection, it’s vital that all sexual
partners undergo testing and treatment if necessary. This prevents the spread
of the STI and reinfection.
Are the Complications Associated with Urethritis?
Medication can often treat urethritis quickly. If the infection
goes untreated, however, the effects can be lasting and quite serious. For example,
the infection may spread to other parts of the urinary tract, including the
ureters, kidneys, and bladder.
In addition, the STIs that frequently cause the condition can
damage the reproductive system over time. They can even lead to infertility.
For these reasons, you should speak with a doctor as soon as possible if you
notice any symptoms of urethritis.
Can I Prevent Urethritis?
Many of the bacteria that cause urethritis can pass to another
person through sexual contact. Because of this, practicing safe sex is an
important preventive measure. The tips below can help reduce your risk:
- Avoid having intercourse with multiple partners.
- Use condoms every time you have sex.
- Get tested regularly.
- Protect others. If you find out you have an STI,
inform others who are also at risk of an infection.
Aside from safer sex practices, there are other ways to promote
good urinary tract health. This can lower your risk of urethritis and some
other conditions that affect this part of the body. Drink plenty of fluids and
make sure to urinate shortly after intercourse. Avoid acidic foods. Also, avoid
exposure to spermicides, particularly if you already know they irritate your