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Home > Services > Urology > Urology Conditions & Treatments > Urethritis (Urethral Infection)

Urethritis (Urethral Infection)

Urethritis (urethral infection) is an inflammation, infection or irritation of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder.

What Causes Urethritis?

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

Urethritis occurs most often 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

Symptoms of a Urethral Infection

People with urethritis may not have symptoms, especially women.

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.

Testing for a Urethral Infection

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor can usually diagnose urethritis from your symptoms. Tests that confirm your diagnosis include:

  • Urethral swab for microscopic study or culture
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Specific tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia or other STDs

Urethritis Treatment  

Medication commonly treats urethritis. The type of medication depends on the cause of the urethral infection.

  • Antibiotics treat urethritis caused by bacteria
  • Antiviral drugs treat urethritis caused by some viruses

You should refrain from sexual activity for seven days after initiation of therapy. If an STD causes urethritis, all sexual partners should be tested and treated.

Preventing a Urethral Infection   

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.


Call the Urology Clinic.



Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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