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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Causes

Urethritis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses, including:

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors 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

There may be no symptoms especially in women. Approximately 50% of men infected with Chlamydia trachomatis 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 intercourse
  • 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.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam, including 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

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 virus

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

Prevention

Steps to prevent urethritis include:

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