What is urethritis?
Urethritis is irritation or infection of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that empties urine from the bladder. In men the urethra extends the full length of the penis.
What is the cause?
Urethritis may be caused by infection. A yeast infection and sexually transmitted diseases or infections (also called an STD or STI), such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, are common causes.
Irritation of the urethra can be caused by chemicals, such as lubricants, spermicide, or condoms with scents, colors, or flavors.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
- Painful urination
- Drops of pus from the opening of the penis
- 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. Your provider may swab discharge from the penis to test for bacteria in the lab. A sample of your urine may be tested for infection.
How is it treated?
Your healthcare provider will likely prescribe antibiotics if your symptoms are caused by a bacteria. Symptoms caused by an infection should stop within a few days after you start taking antibiotics.
If your symptoms are caused by an STD or STI, treating the infection should help. Your sexual partner should also be treated.
Your provider may prescribe another medicine to help relieve burning with urination and discomfort in the bladder.
How can I help take care of myself?
- If you have an STD, do not have sex before both you and your partner have finished all of the medicine and your provider says it’s OK.
- Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. If you were prescribed an antibiotic, take all of it as prescribed, even if you have no symptoms. Ask your provider:
- How and when you will hear your test results
- How long it will take to recover
- 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.
How can I help prevent urethritis?
- Avoid activities, chemicals, or other irritants that cause redness, burning, or itching in the genital area.
- 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.
- Always use latex or polyurethane condoms during sex to help prevent infection with an STD.
- Avoid any chemicals (including scents, colors, or flavors in condoms) before or during sex. Unscented lubricant, such as KY jelly, is OK.
- Have just 1 sexual partner who is not sexually active with anyone else. Make sure your partner has been tested for gonorrhea and other STDs.
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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.
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