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.
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Risk factors that increase your chance of getting urethritis include:
Sex: femaleMultiple sexual partnersRecent change in sexual partnersUnprotected sex (without use of a condom)History of other STDsBacterial infection of other parts of the urinary tract (bladder, kidney, prostate)Medications that lower resistance to bacterial infectionHaving catheters or tubes placed in the bladderAcidic foodsSpermicides
People with urethritis may not have symptoms, especially women. About half of men infected with
have no symptoms.
Symptoms may include:
Pain and/or burning while urinatingBlood in the urine
Increase in urinary:
FrequencyUrgencyItching, swelling, and/or tenderness in the groinPain during sex
Discharge from the penisBlood in the semenPain during ejaculationSwollen 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.
Your 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 cultureBlood and urine tests
Specific tests for
chlamydia, or other STDs
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 bacteriaAntiviral drugs—to treat urethritis caused by a virus
If urethritis is caused by an STD, all sexual partners should be tested and treated.
Steps to prevent urethritis include:
Practicing safe sex by using condoms and barrier methods of contraceptionUrinating immediately after having sexual intercourseTreating all sexual partners who are infected or exposedRegularly drinking plenty of fluids, especially cranberry juice
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines, Clinical prevention guidance.
MMWR Recomm Rep. 2006;55(R11):1-94.
Diseases characterized by urethritis and cervicitis.
MMWR Recomm Rep.
Miller KE. Diagnosis and treatment of
Am Fam Physician. 2006;73:1411-1416.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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