Urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra. The urethra is a tube that carries urine (pee) from the bladder out of the body. This condition leads to swelling and pain when urinating (peeing).
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Urethritis may be caused by:
- Bacteria that move into the urethra
- Certain sexually transmitted infections, such as:
- Certain viruses such as herpes simplex
- Fungal infections
- Putting something in the urethra
- Pressure or injury to the urethra
- Irritation from soaps, douches, and spermicides
Urethritis is more common in women. Things that may raise the risk are:
- Being sexually active
- Using spermicides
- Having many sexual partners
- Unprotected sex (without use of a condom)
- A history of other STIs
- Having catheters or tubes placed in the bladder
- Medicines that lower resistance to bacterial infection
Some people have no symptoms. This is more common in women.
Urethritis may cause:
- Pain or burning while urinating (peeing)
- Blood in the urine (pee)
- More frequent urination
- Very strong urges to urinate
- Itchiness or pain in the urethra
- Pain during sex
Men may also have:
- Discharge from the penis
- Blood in the semen
- Pain during ejaculation
- Swollen and/or tender testicles
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done with a pelvic exam. Diagnosis may be based on symptoms.
A sample of urine will be checked for pus or blood. Further tests may be done to look for the germ that might be causing the problem.
Urethritis is usually treated with medicine. The type of medicine will depend on the cause, such as:
- Antibiotics—if it is caused by bacteria
- Antiviral drugs—if it is caused by some viruses
- Antifungal drugs—if it is caused by a fungal infection
Things that cause irritation may need to be stopped or limited. The doctor may advise:
- Not using irritating soaps or spermicides
- Not wearing tight clothing
- Limiting any other activity that hurts that area
Those with an STI should avoid sexual activity until treatment is done. Partners exposed to the STI should be tested.
To help reduce the risk of urethritis:
- Practice safe sex by:
- Using condoms.
- Limiting your number of sexual partners.
- Get tested for STIs if you are sexually active.
- Do not use chemicals that irritate your urethra.
- Do not do things that irritate your urethra.
- Nongonococcal urethritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/nongonococcal-urethritis.
- Urethritis. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22858-urethritis.
- Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, et al. Sexually Transmitted Infections Treatment Guidelines, 2021. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187.
- April Scott
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