Urethritis is an infection and inflammation of the lining of the urethra, the narrow tube that carries urine out of the body. In men, the urethra also carries semen. Urethritis is usually caused when bacteria from the anus travel to the urethra. The infection may affect the bladder, prostate, and reproductive organs. It may also be caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD), such as herpes or chlamydia.
Urethritis can happen in men and women of all ages. Women, however, are at higher risk because the urethra is closer to the anus.
Signs and Symptoms
There may be no symptoms of urethritis, particularly in women. When there are, symptoms may include:
- Burning during urination
- Pus or whitish, mucous discharge from the penis
- Burning or itching around the opening of the penis
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Abdominal pain
- Painful urination
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Fever and chills
- Frequent, urgent urination
What Causes It?
- Bacteria and other organisms entering the urethra
- Bruising during sexual intercourse (in women)
- Infection reaching the urethra from the prostate gland or through the penis opening (in men)
- Bacterial infection after you have taken a course of antibiotics
- Reiter syndrome
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes simplex virus, or HIV and AIDS
What to Expect at Your Doctor's Office
Your doctor will examine your genitals, do laboratory tests on a urine sample, and take a specimen of mucus from inside the urethra and, in women, the vagina.
- Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria causing the infection.
- All sex partners should be treated.
- You should not have sex until you complete treatment, because you can still have an infection even after your symptoms go away.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
- Always use condoms.
- If you have symptoms, or think you have an infection, seek treatment immediately and notify all sexual partners.
- Practice good personal hygiene.
Depending on the cause of the infection, your doctor may prescribe one of the following treatments:
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
- Levofloxacin (Levaquin)
- Sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim (Bactrim, Septra)
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Nutrition, herbs, and homeopathic remedies can help your body fight infection, relieve pain, and strengthen the urinary system. Always tell your doctor about the herbs and supplements you are using. Complementary therapies are best used in conjunction with conventional medical care as part of a coordinated approach among your health care providers to affect the best outcomes.Nutrition and Supplements
- Cranberries contain substances that may keep bacteria from sticking to the urethra. Preliminary evidence suggests that drinking cranberry juice daily may help prevent urinary tract infections, especially in women who get infections often.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of filtered water daily.
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your doctor before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, or teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. (5 g) herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaves or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
- Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon). Supplements to help prevent urethritis and urinary tract infections. You may also drink 8 to 16 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice daily. Cranberry supplements or juice may increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel (Plavix). People with kidney stones and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take cranberry supplements. People who are allergic to aspirin should not take large amounts of cranberry supplements. Cranberry can interact with a number of medications. Ask your doctor before taking cranberry supplements.
- Bromelain (Ananus comosus). For pain and inflammation. Bromelain can increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you already take blood thinners. People who are allergic to pineapple should not take bromelain. Ask your doctor before taking bromelain.
Some of the most common remedies used for urethritis are listed below. Usually, the dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every 1 to 4 hours until symptoms improve.
- Staphysagria. For urinary infections associated with sexual intercourse.
- Apis mellifica. For stinging pains that are made worse by warmth.
- Cantharis. For intolerable urging with "scalding" urine.
- Sarsaparilla. For burning after urination.
Acupuncture may help strengthen your overall immune system and help relieve pain from urethritis.
If your urethritis was caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD), your sexual partners may need to be treated as well. Possible complications for men include:
Possible complications for women include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Fertility problems
- Other gynecological problems
STDs can cause permanent damage to reproductive organs and infertility in both sexes. They can also cause problems during pregnancy, premature delivery, low birth weight, and infections in newborns.
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Review Date: 6/2/2016
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.