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Urethritis is defined as inflammation of the urethra. Although this condition may result from infectious or noninfectious etiologies, the term urethritis is typically reserved to describe urethral inflammation caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Several organisms can cause infectious urethritis.


Males with urethritis may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

burning sensation while urinating

itching or burning near the opening of the penis

presence of blood in the semen or urine

discharge from the penis

Symptoms in women

Some symptoms of urethritis in women include:

more frequent urge to urinate

discomfort during urination

burning or irritation at the urethral opening

abnormal discharge from the vagina may also be present along with the urinary symptoms

People who have urethritis may also not have any noticeable symptoms. This is especially true for women. In men, symptoms may not be apparent if the urethritis developed as a result of chlamydia or occasionally trichomoniasis infection.


Generally, most cases of urethritis are the result of an infection from either a bacteria or a virus. Bacteria are the most common causes. The same bacteria that can cause bladder and kidney infections can also infect the lining of the urethra. Bacteria found naturally in the genital area may also cause urethritis if they enter the urinary tract.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, bacteria associated with urethritis include:

Neisseria gonorrhoeae

Chlamydia trachomatis

Mycoplasma genitalium

Pathogens are the biological agents that cause illness. The same pathogens that cause STIs can also cause urethritis. These include the bacteria that cause gonorrhea and chlamydia and the parasite that causes trichomoniasis.

Risk factors

Being a female.

Being male, ages 20 to 35.

Having many sexual partners.

High-risk sexual behavior (such as men having penetrating anal sex without a condom)

History of sexually transmitted diseases.

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Medication can often treat urethritis quickly. If the infection goes untreated, however, the effects can be lasting and quite serious. For example, the infection may spread to other parts of the urinary tract, including the ureters, kidneys, and bladder. These infections can be painful on their own. While they can be treated with more intensive rounds of antibiotics, they can cause damage to the organs if left untreated for too long. These untreated infections can also spread to the blood and result in sepsis, which can be deadly.

In addition, the STIs that frequently cause urethritis can damage the reproductive system. Women may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is painful and can result in infertility, ongoing pelvic pain, or pain during sex. Women with untreated STIs are also at a higher risk for ectopic pregnancies, which can be life-threatening.

Men may develop painful inflammation or infection of the prostate gland, or the narrowing of a section of the urethra due to scarring, leading to painful urination. For these reasons, you should speak with a doctor as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms of urethritis.


Many of the bacteria that cause urethritis can pass to another person through sexual contact. Because of this, practicing safe sex is an important preventive measure. The tips below can help reduce your risk:

Avoid having intercourse with multiple partners.

Use condoms every time you have sex.

Get tested regularly.

Protect others. If you find out you have an STI, inform others who are also at risk of an infection.

Aside from safer sex practices, there are other ways to promote good urinary tract health. This can lower your risk of urethritis and some other conditions that affect this part of the body. Drink plenty of fluids and make sure to urinate shortly after intercourse. Avoid acidic foods. Also, avoid exposure to spermicides, particularly if you already know they irritate your urethra.