The urethra is the tube that empties urine from the bladder. In men the urethra extends the full length of the penis.
Urethral syndrome, also called chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain, is a long-term problem that causes swelling or irritation of the urethra that is not due to an infection. The symptoms feel similar to a urinary tract infection. Urethral syndrome may get better as you get older, but it can be a life-long problem.
What is the cause?
Usually a cause of the symptoms cannot be found. Urethral syndrome may be caused by irritation of the genital area from:
Spasms of the muscles around the urethra
Rubbing or pressure from tight clothing or sex
Physical activity such as bicycle riding
Irritants such as lubricants, spermicides, or condoms with scents, colors, or flavors
Nerve problems caused by diseases such as diabetes or herpes
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
Pain and discomfort in the lower belly
Feeling the need to urinate often
A feeling that your bladder is never empty
Pain when you urinate
Tenderness at the opening of the penis
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. Tests may include:
Blood or urine tests.
Urodynamic tests, which shows how well your bladder can store and release urine.
Cystoscopy, a procedure which uses a slim, flexible, lighted tube with a tiny camera to look into the urethra and bladder.
How is it treated?
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help you have less pain when you urinate.
If sexual activity brings on your symptoms, your provider may prescribe medicine to relieve pain or an antibiotic. You may need to avoid having sex until your symptoms go away.
If the urethra has become narrower, you may not be able to empty your bladder completely. Your provider may dilate the urethra to widen the opening and make it easier to urinate. You may be given steroid shots in and around the urethra to decrease inflammation.
Kegel exercises can help strengthen the muscles that support your bladder and rectum. You use these muscles when you urinate, have bowel movements, and during sex. Your healthcare provider can teach you how to do Kegel exercises.
How can I take care of myself?
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:
Drink plenty of fluids each day. The fluids help flush the bladder and the rest of the urinary tract.
Avoid caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol. It may also help to avoid foods that are acidic or spicy, such as citrus fruit, hot mustard, hot peppers, and salsa.
Avoid activities, chemicals, or other irritants that cause redness, burning, or itching in the genital area. Donâ€™t use chemicals (including scents, colors, or flavors in condoms) before or during sex. Unscented lubricant, such as KY jelly, is OK.
Keep your genital area clean. Always wash your penis during baths or showers. If you are not circumcised, gently pull back the foreskin and wash the tip of your penis when you take a bath or shower.
Urinate before and after sex.
Ask your provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
How can I help prevent urethral syndrome?
In addition to taking the above steps, it may help to:
Avoid tight clothes in the genital area, such as control-top tight jeans.
Avoid bicycling often or for long periods of time, especially if you have a long-nose bicycle seat.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-12-05 Last reviewed: 2014-12-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Urethral Syndrome in Men: References
Ismail, M, Mackenzie, K, Hashim, H. (2013). Contemporary treatment options for chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Drugs Today (Barc); 49(7), 457-62.
Doggweiler-Wiygul, R, Wiygul, JP. (2002). Interstitial cystitis, pelvic pain, and the relationship to myofascial pain and dysfunction: a report on four patients. World J Urol;20(5):310-4.
Kirby, RS, Carson, C 3rd, Dasgupta, P. (2014). Daily phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor therapy: a new treatment option for prostatitis/prostatodynia? BJU Int;113(5), 694-5.
Samplaski, MK, Li J, Shoskes, DA. (2012). Clustering of UPOINT domains and subdomains in men with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome and contribution to symptom severity. J Urol; 188(5), 1788-93