Urethritis is the inflammation and swelling of the urethra – the narrow tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. Most cases of urethritis are the result of an infection from either a bacteria or a virus. Bacteria are the most common causes. The same bacteria that can cause bladder and kidney infections can also infect the lining of the urethra. Bacteria found naturally in the genital area may also cause urethritis if they enter the urinary tract. Other causative factors of urethritis include injury, as well as sensitivity to chemicals that are often used in spermicides, as well as creams, foams or contraceptive jellies.
Due to differences in the anatomy of the urethra between males and females, the symptoms experienced by those affected by the condition often differ considerably. The main symptoms of urethritis are pain or burning during urination and an urge to urinate more frequently. Another symptom is redness around the opening of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. Males with urethritis may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- burning sensation while urinating (dysuria)
- itching or burning near the opening of the penis
- presence of blood in the semen or urine
- discharge from the penis
- Pain during sexaul intercourse
- Fever (rare)
- Tenderness or swelling of the penis
Diagnosis of male patients typically involves examining the abdomen, scrotum, penis, and bladder for any swelling or discharge. The doctors may spread the urinary meatus apart to see if there are any abnormalities. A swab is inserted into the urethra which is then examined under a microscope. The urinary meatus is the hole from which urine leaves the body. Tests that can help confirm the diagnosis of urethritis can include:
- Physical examination, including the genitals, abdomen, and rectum
- Urine tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or other bacteria
- Examination of any discharge under a microscope
Blood tests are often not necessary for the diagnosis of urethritis. However blood tests may be performed in certain situations.
The primary aim of treatment is to eradicate the infection, which will help to improve symptoms and prevent spread of infection. Medications are prescribed to treat the root cause of the patient’s urethritis, and to prevent the spread of infection. If the patient has a bacterial infection, an antibiotic will be prescribed. Below are the most commonly prescribed medications for urethritis:
The patient may also take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as naproxen, along with the antibiotics for symptoms of pain. Those 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.
With the correct diagnosis and treatment, urethritis most often clears up without any further problems or complications. However, men with urethritis are often at risk to some complications, including cystitis, or bladder infection, epididymitis, orchitis, or infection of the testicles, as well as prostatitis or infection of the prostate. If a severe infection occurs, the urethra may be scarred, and eventually narrowed. This is referred to as urethral stricture.