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Definition Return to top
Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra from any cause.
Causes Return to top
Urethritis may be caused by bacteria or a virus. The same bacteria that cause urinary tract infections (E. coli) and some sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia, gonorrhea) can lead to urethritis. Viral causes of urethritis include herpes simplex virus and cytomegalovirus.
Other causes include:
Risks for urethritis include:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
The health care provider will perform a physical examination. 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 health care provider will check for:
The following tests may be done:
Treatment Return to top
The goals of therapy are to:
Antibiotic therapy should target the bacteria causing the infection. In some cases, antibiotics may need to be given through a vein (by IV). You may take pain relievers (including pyridium, which works on the urinary tract) along with antibiotics.
People with urethritis who are being treated should avoid sex or use condoms during sex. If an infection is the cause of the inflammation, your sexual partner must also be treated.
Urethritis caused by trauma or chemical irritants is treated by avoiding the source of injury or irritation.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
With the correct diagnosis and treatment, urethritis usually clears up without any complications. However, urethritis can lead to permanent damage to the urethra (scar tissue called urethral stricture) and other urinary organs in both men and women.
Possible Complications Return to top
Men with urethritis are at risk for the following complications:
Women with urethritis are at risk for the following complications:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of urethritis.
Prevention Return to top
Some causes of urethritis may be avoided with good personal hygiene and by practicing safer sexual behaviors such as monogamy (one sexual partner only) and using condoms.
References Return to top
Gerber GS, Brendler CB. Evaluation of the urologic patient: history, physical examination, and urinalysis. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 3.
Frenkl T, Potts J. Sexually transmitted diseases. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 11.
Lentz GM. Urogynecology: physiology of micturition, diagnosis of voiding dysfunction, and incontinence: surgical and nonsurgical treatment. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007: chap 21.
Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower genital tract: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, HIV infections. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007: chap 22.Update Date: 9/7/2008 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Urology, Department of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.