Urethritis is inflammation (swelling and irritation) of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the body.
Both bacteria and viruses may cause urethritis. Some of the bacteria that cause this condition include E coli, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. These bacteria also cause urinary tract infections and some sexually transmitted diseases. Viral causes are herpes simplex virus and cytomegalovirus.
Other causes include:
Sometimes the cause is unknown.
Risks for urethritis include:
The health care provider will examine you. In men, the exam will include the abdomen, bladder area, penis, and scrotum. The physical exam may show:
A digital rectal exam will also be performed.
Women will have abdominal and pelvic exams. The provider will check for:
Your provider may look into your bladder using a tube with a camera on the end. This is called cystoscopy.
The following tests may be done:
The goals of treatment are to:
If you have a bacterial infection, you will be given antibiotics.
You may take both pain relievers for general body pain and products for localized urinary tract pain, plus antibiotics.
People with urethritis who are being treated should avoid sex, or use condoms during sex. Your sexual partner must also be treated if the condition is caused by an infection.
Urethritis caused by trauma or chemical irritants is treated by avoiding the source of injury or irritation.
Urethritis that does not clear up after antibiotic treatment and lasts for at least 6 weeks is called chronic urethritis. Different antibiotics may be used to treat this problem.
With the correct diagnosis and treatment, urethritis most often clears up without further problems.
However, urethritis can lead to long-term damage to the urethra and scar tissue called urethral stricture. It can also cause damage to other urinary organs in both men and women. In women, the infection could lead to fertility problems if it spreads to the pelvis.
Men with urethritis are at risk for the following:
After a severe infection, the urethra may become scarred and then narrowed.
Women with urethritis are at risk for the following:
Call your provider if you have symptoms of urethritis.
Things you can do to help avoid urethritis include:
Reviewed By: Sovrin M. Shah, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Urology, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.