• Urethritis

    (Urethral Infection)


    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.
    Female Urethra
    Nucleus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    Urethritis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses, including:
    • Organisms that cause bladder or kidney infections
    • Organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
    • Other bacteria

    Risk Factors

    Urethritis is more common in women. Other factors that may increase your chance of urethritis include:
    • Multiple sexual partners
    • Recent change in sexual partners
    • Unprotected sex (without use of a condom)
    • History of other STDs
    • Bacterial infection of other parts of the urinary tract (bladder, kidney, prostate)
    • Medications that lower resistance to bacterial infection
    • Having catheters or tubes placed in the bladder
    • Acidic foods
    • Spermicides


    People with urethritis may not have symptoms, especially women. About half of men infected with chlamydia have no symptoms.
    Urethritis may cause:
    • Pain and/or burning while urinating
    • Blood in the urine
    • Increase in urinary:
      • Frequency
      • Urgency
    • Itching, swelling, and/or tenderness in the groin
    • Pain during sex
    Urethritis symptoms specific to men may include:
    • Discharge from the penis
    • Blood in the semen
    • Pain during ejaculation
    • Swollen 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.


    You will be asked 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 culture
    • Blood and urine tests
    • Specific tests for gonorrhea, 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 bacteria
    • Antiviral drugs—to treat urethritis caused by some viruses
    Refraining from sexual activity recommended until 7 days after initiation of therapy.
    If urethritis is caused by an STD, all sexual partners should be tested and treated.


    To help reduce your chance of urethritis::
    • Practice safe sex by using condoms and barrier methods of contraception.
    • Urinate immediately after having sexual intercourse.
    • Tell all sexual partners who are infected or exposed so they may get treatment.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov

    Urology Care Foundation http://www.urologyhealth.org


    Canadian Urological Association http://www.cua.org

    Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca


    2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/default.htm. Updated January 25, 2017. Accessed September 7, 2017.

    Diseases characterized by urethritis and cervicitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/urethritis-and-cervicitis.htm. Updated January 28, 2011. Accessed September 7, 2017.

    Miller KE. Diagnosis and treatment of Chlamydia trachomatis infection. Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(8):1411-1416.

    Nongonococcal urethritis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116488/Nongonococcal-urethritis. Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed September 12, 2016.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
    • Review Date: 09/2017
    • Update Date: 09/12/2016
  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.