Disease, Condition & InjuryPelvis conditionsReproductive organs conditions


(Urethral Infection)

Urethritis – 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.

Urethritis – 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

Urethritis – 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

Urethritis – Symptoms

People with urethritis may not have symptoms, especially 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.

Urethritis – Diagnosis

The 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

Urethritis – 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.

Urethritis – 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, including cranberry juice

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