Urethritis is swelling of the urethra. The urethra is a tube that carries urine from the bladder outside the body. Pain when urinating is the main symptom of urethritis.
Urethritis is usually caused by a bacterial infection. The condition of urethritis is usually cured with antibiotics. Urethritis is not the same as urinary tract infection (UTI). Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra, while UTI is a urinary tract infection.
Both of these diseases may have the same symptoms, but require different treatment methods depending on the cause of urethritis.
Urethritis can affect people of all ages. Both men and women can develop the condition. However, women have a greater chance of developing the condition than men.
This is because some of the male urethra which is the length of the penis, is much longer than women. A woman’s urethra is usually one and a half inches long, which makes it easy for bacteria to enter the urethra.
Causes of Urethritis
Most episodes of urethritis are caused by infections by bacteria that enter the urethra from the skin around the urethral opening. Bacteria that commonly cause urethritis include:
- E. Coli and other bacteria present in feces.
- Gonococcus, which is sexually transmitted and causes gonorrhea.
- Chlamydia trachomatis, which is sexually transmitted and causes chlamydia.
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2) can also cause urethritis.
- Trichomonas is another cause of urethritis, a sexually transmitted single-celled organism.
Sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea and chlamydia are usually limited to the urethra, and can also spread to the female reproductive organs, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
In men, gonorrhea and chlamydia sometimes cause epididymitis, epididymal infections, tubes on the outside of the testes. Both PID and epididymitis can cause infertility.
Types of urethritis
There are various types of urethritis which are classified based on the cause of inflammation. They are gonococcal urethritis and nongonococcal urethritis.
Gonococcal urethritis is caused by the same bacteria that cause gonorrhea (sexually transmitted infections). This type accounts for 20 percent of cases of urethritis.
While nongonococcal urethritis is urethritis caused by other infections that are not gonorrhea. Chlamydia is a common cause of nongonococcal urethritis, but it can also be caused by other sexually transmitted infections.
These causes can include injury, such as from a catheter or other types of genital trauma. While many patients have one type of urethritis or another, it may have different causes of urethritis at once. This is especially true for women.
Symptoms of urethritis
The main symptom of urethral inflammation from urethritis is pain when urinating (dysuria). In addition to being sick, the symptoms of urethritis include:
- Feeling frequent or urgent urination.
- Trouble starting urinating.
- Causes itching, pain, or discomfort when a person doesn’t urinate.
- Pain during sex.
- Discharge (fluid) from the urethral or vaginal opening.
- In men, blood in semen or urine.
Symptoms in men
Men with urethritis may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Burning sensation during urination.
- Itching or burning near the opening of the penis.
- Blood in semen or urine.
Symptoms in women
Some symptoms of urethritis in women include:
- More often want to urinate.
- Discomfort when urinating.
- Burning or irritation of the urethral opening.
- Fluid from the vagina can also be present along with urinary symptoms.
People who suffer from urethritis may also have no obvious symptoms. This is especially true for women. In men, symptoms may not be apparent if urethritis develops as a result of chlamydia or sometimes trichomoniasis infection.
For this reason, it is important to undergo testing if you might have been infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
You may get a diagnosis of urethritis when the doctor records your medical history and asks about your symptoms. If you experience painful urination, your doctor may suspect an infection. He may immediately treat it with antibiotics while waiting for test results.
Tests can help confirm the diagnosis of urethritis and its causes. Urethritis tests can include:
- Physical examination, including genitals, stomach and rectum.
- Urine tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or other bacteria.
- Examination of any discharge under a microscope.
- Blood tests are often not necessary for the diagnosis of urethritis. But blood tests can be done in certain situations.
One of the urethritis medications that you can use is antibiotics. Antibiotics successfully cure urethritis due to bacteria. Many different antibiotics can treat urethritis. Some of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics include:
- Adoxa, doxycycline (Vibramycin), Monodox, Oracea.
- Azithromycin (Zmax), Zithromax.
- Ceftriaxone (Rocephin).
Meanwhile, urethritis drugs caused by trichomonas infection (called trichomoniasis) are usually treated with antibiotics called metronidazole (Flagyl).
Tinidazole (Tindamax) is another antibiotic that can treat trichomoniasis. Your sexual partner must also be treated to prevent reinfection (repeated infections). It is important to be retested after three months to ensure that the infection is completely clean, including your sexual partner.
Urethritis due to herpes simplex virus can be treated by:
- Acyclovir (Zovirax).
- Famciclovir (Famvir).
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex).
Often, determining which organism is causing urethritis cannot be identified with certainty. In this situation, the doctor may prescribe one or more antibiotics that tend to cure infections that may be present.