Inflammation of The Urethra – Are Symptoms of Urethritis Different In Men And Women?

Inflammation of The Urethra – Are Symptoms of Urethritis Different In Men And Women?

Burning sensation while urinating is a painful thing no one wants to experience. But some conditions such as urethritis can lead to such problem and disturb your daily activities. Let’s know about urethritis, its symptoms in men and women and how to solve this problem.


Urethritis is a disorder in which the urethra gets inflamed and irritated. Urethra is the duct or tube through which urine exits from the body. This is the same tube that allows semen to pass through during ejaculation. In urethritis, a person feels pain or burning sensation while urinating as well as other symptoms such as increased feeling to urinate.

Urethritis vs urinary tract infection

Many people consider both these condition as same, but they are different. Urethritis is actually a cause of urinary tract infection. It is the inflammation of the urethra while urinary tract infection (UTI) is the infection of the urinary tract.

The reason for confusion is the similar symptoms, however, both of these conditions are treated differently, depending on the underlying cause of urethritis.

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Causes of urethritis

The primary cause of urethritis is infection from bacteria, however, it can also occur as a result of virus infection. Bacteria that are naturally part of the genital area may also cause urethritis if they get into the urinary tract.

Bacteria - As per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three bacteria are linked to urethritis namely; Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Mycoplasma genitalium, and Chlamydia trachomatis. Urethritis can also occur due to pathogens which causes sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Pathogens are disease-producing agents that cause illness.

Urethritis caused by gonorrhea is called as Gonococcal urethritis. It accounts for 20 percent of all the cases. While non-gonococcal urethritis are those which are not caused by gonorrhea, for example, chlamydia, which is a common cause.

Viruses – The viruses that can contribute in the development of urethritis include herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus (HPV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Does urethritis affect only women?

Both men and women can experience urethritis. People of all ages are affected by this condition. However, women have more chances of developing urethritis as compared to men. This is because men’s urethra which is about the length of the penis is much longer than that of women’s. A female’s urethra is about 1 and a half inch long. This makes difficult for the bacteria to slope upward and infect the urethra.

Are symptoms of urethritis different in men and women?

Urethritis affects men and women differently. Some people might be asymptomatic while some other experience severe symptoms. Here are symptoms of men and women, some may be similar.

Symptoms in men

Males experience following symptoms:

  • Burning sensation or pain while urinating
  • Itching or tingling sensation near the opening of the penis
  • Milky fluid discharge from the penis
  • Presence of blood in urine or semen
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Fever (rare)

Symptoms in women

Symptoms of urethritis in women are:

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Are there any complications of urethritis?

If the infection is left untreated, it can lead to serious and long-lasting effects. It may spread to other organs of the urinary tract including kidneys, ureters, bladder, testicles or prostate. While the serious infection can be treated with high dose of antibiotics, it can be detrimental to organs if the condition is left untreated for a long time.

The untreated infection can also spread to the blood causing sepsis, which is a fatal condition. Moreover, sexually transmitted infections that are frequently causing urethritis can prove fatal to the reproductive system. In women, there is a risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease.

Diagnosis of urethritis

At the first appointment, the doctor would like to physically examine the genital area for symptoms such as soreness, tenderness, discharge or any signs of sexually transmitted infection. It can be followed by brief questioning on sexual health and medical history. All this would help the doctor in confirming the diagnosis. The doctor, in this case, a urologist, may also order some test including:

Urine test – A sample of urine or swab will be taken from the urethra or vagina to check for sexually transmitted infections. This test is also known as nucleic acid amplification test, or NAAT in which discharge is also analyzed under a microscope.

Blood test – For checking the presence of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and syphilis, complete blood count (CBC) may be suggested.

Pelvic ultrasound – Besides physically examining the pelvis of a woman, the doctor might also order ultrasound test to check for confirming the diagnosis.

How urethritis is treated?

The treatment of urethritis will depend on the cause. Following may be recommended.

Antibiotics – For bacterial infection, antibiotics such as azithromycin, doxycycline and erythromycin are given. The course typically last for 7 days. As for infection such as trichomoniasis, metronidazole and tinidazole can be recommended.

Antiviral medication - Viral infections such as herpex simplex virus are treated with acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir.

Pain relievers - Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as naproxen can be recommended for relieving pain. The doctor can also suggest phenazopyridine for treating pain as well as reducing the frequency or increased urge for urination.

It is to be noted that certain drugs used to treat some chronic conditions may interact with the medications given for urethritis. These include medicines for blood-thinning, heart and for seizures.

Is urethritis preventable?

Many strains of bacteria that cause urethritis are passed through sexual contact. So, practicing safe sex is an ideal approach towards preventing urethritis. Following measures should be adopted:

  • Use condoms during sex
  • Avoid risky sexual activities such as having multiple partners
  • Regular screening
  • Good personal hygiene

There are chances of complete recovery from urethritis unless it is diagnosed early and treated promptly. So, talk to your doctor and go through regular screening to stay safe and healthy.