Urethritis (patient information)
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Urethritis On the Web
Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. ;Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Seyedmahdi Pahlavani, M.D. 
Urethritis as a part of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) spectrum is infection that you can get from having sex with someone who has the infection. The causes of urethritis are mostly bacteria, including
Urethritis affect both men and women, but in many cases the health problems they cause can be more severe for women. If a pregnant woman has an STD, it can cause serious health problems for the baby.
What are the symptoms of urethritis?
The symptoms vary among the different types of urethritis and may include-
- Discharge from the penis or vagina
- Burning while urinating
- Itching and redness in the genital area
- Anal itching
What causes Sexually transmitted disease?
Both bacteria and viruses may cause urethritis. The same bacteria that cause this condition are E. coli, chlamydia, gonorrhea. These bacteria also cause urinary tract infections and some sexually transmitted diseases. Viral causes are herpes simplex virus and cytomegalovirus.
Other causes include:
Injury Sensitivity to the chemicals used in spermicides or contraceptive jellies, or foams Sometimes the cause is unknown.
Who is at highest risk?
Risks for urethritis include:
- Being a female
- Being male, ages 20 to 35
- Having many sexual partners
- High-risk sexual behavior (such as anal sex without a condom)
- History of sexually transmitted diseases
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:
- Discharge from the penis
- Tender and enlarged lymph nodes in the groin area
- Tender and swollen penis
- A digital rectal exam will also be performed.
Women will have abdominal and pelvic exams. The provider will check for:
- Discharge from the urethra
- Tenderness of the lower abdomen
- Tenderness of the urethra
- 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:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- C-reactive protein test
- Pelvic ultrasound (women only)
- Pregnancy test (women only)
- Urinalysis and urine cultures
- Tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and other sexually transmitted illnesses (STI)
- Urethral swab
The goals of treatment are to:
- Get rid of the cause of infection
- Improve symptoms
- Prevent the spread of infection
- If you have a bacterial infection, you will be given antibiotics.
You may take pain relievers, urinary pain reliever along with 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.
Where to find medical care for Sexually transmitted disease?
Directions to Hospitals Treating Urethritis
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
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:
- Bladder infection (cystitis)
- Infection in the testicles (orchitis)
- Prostate infection (prostatitis)
- After a severe infection, the urethra may become scarred and then narrowed.
Women with urethritis are at risk for the following:
- Bladder infection (cystitis)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID -- an infection of the uterus lining, fallopian tubes, or ovaries)
Things you can do to help avoid urethritis include:
Keep the area around the opening of the urethra clean. Follow safer sex practices. Have one sexual partner only (monogamy) and use condoms.
Condoms only provide protection when used properly as a barrier, and only to and from the area that it covers. Uncovered areas are still susceptible to many STDs. In the case of HIV, sexual transmission routes almost always involve the penis, as HIV cannot spread through unbroken skin, thus properly shielding the insertive penis with a properly worn condom from the vagina and anus effectively stops HIV transmission. An infected fluid to broken skin borne direct transmission of HIV would not be considered "sexually transmitted", but can still theoretically occur during sexual contact, this can be avoided simply by not engaging in sexual contact when having open bleeding wounds. Other STDs, even viral infections, can be prevented with the use of latex condoms as a barrier. Some microorganisms and viruses are small enough to pass through the pores in natural skin condoms, but are still too large to pass through latex condoms.