In the human body, the urethra transports urine from the body to be expelled. The lining of the urethra can become inflamed, resulting in a condition called urethritis.
Both men and women can develop urethritis. MedlinePlus noted that in men, the risk is higher between ages 20 and 35, and in women, the risk is higher during their reproductive years. The University of Maryland Medical Center added that women have a higher risk of developing urethritis compared to men.
Female urethritis has several causes, including injury, bacteria, viruses and sensitivity to certain chemicals, such as the ones used in contraceptive creams or spermicides. Injury-related female urethritis may occur from bruising during sexual intercourse.
Several types of sexually transmitted diseases can result in urethritis. Bacterial causes include syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Viral causes include HIV/AIDS and herpes simplex virus. Other causes of female urethritis include cytomegalovirus and E.coli, which causes urinary tract infections.
In some cases, urethritis may not cause symptoms. The University of Maryland Medical Center noted that asymptomatic urethritis is more common in women than in men.
When women have symptomatic urethritis, they may have unusual vaginal discharge, abdominal pain and pelvic pain. They may experience a burning sensation when they urinate, or have frequent or urgent urination. Fever and chills may also occur.
To diagnose female urethritis, the health care professional will perform pelvic and abdominal examinations. During the examinations, the health care professional will look for tenderness of the lower abdomen and urethra, as well as discharge from the urethra, according to MedlinePlus.
Diagnostics may also include laboratory tests, such as specific tests for sexually transmitted diseases, complete blood count, urinalysis, c-reactive protein test and pelvic ultrasound.
The treatment of female urethritis will depend on the cause of the inflammation. For example, if chlamydia is the cause of the urethritis, the patient will be treated with antibiotics such as erythromycin or azithromycin.
If the cause is an irritation or injury, the source of the injury should be avoided. Because urethritis can cause pain, patients may take pain relievers with their other medications. While being treated, patients should avoid sex or use condoms, noted MedlinePlus.
Complications are possible with urethritis. For example, women with the condition are at risk for pelvic inflammatory disease, bladder infection and cervicitis.
Urethritis may also cause urethral stricture, which is scar tissue that narrows the urethra. Urethral stricture can affect urination and cause pain.
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Urethritis. Web. 8 February 2012
University of Maryland Medical Center. Urethritis. Web. 8 February 2012
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Chlamydia. Web. 8 February 2012
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Urethral Stricture. Web. 8 February 2012
Reviewed February 8, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith