(Tuesday, 2nd Sep, 2014)
Urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra. The urethra is the tube responsible for carrying urine from the bladder out of the body.
Sometimes urethritis is caused by an infection. Infectious urethritis can be divided into two categories, gonococcal urethritis and non-specific urethritis.
Gonococcal urethritis is an STD (sexually transmitted disease) caused by gonorrhoea. (Gonorrhoea is an STD that affects the genital mucous membranes in both men and women.)
In women, gonococcal urethritis can be asymptomatic (showing no symptoms). If symptoms are present, they can include pain or a burning sensation when urinating and frequent urinating.
In men, there can be a number of symptoms. There may be a discharge from the end of the urethra (the opening at the end of the penis where urine comes out), and this area may be red in colour. Urinating may be frequent, painful, or produce a burning sensation.
If a person has infectious urethritis that has not been caused by gonorrhoea, then it is referred to as non-specific urethritis (NSU). This is also an STD and may be caused by any of a large number of bacteria, yeasts or chlamydia. However, in some cases the cause is unknown.
Many people with NSU infections are asymptomatic (have no symptoms). As a result, a person may not know they are infected and may be passing this condition on without realising. If symptoms do occur, they are usually very similar to those caused by gonococcal urethritis.
A specimen of the discharge from the urethra is examined in the laboratory in an effort to determine the cause of the urethritis.
Treatment will depend on the cause identified. Appropriate antibiotics will be prescribed, depending on the laboratory results. It is important to complete the course of antibiotics.
It is also important that all sexual contacts are identified, investigated and treated if necessary, even if they do not display any symptoms.
Without treatment, gonococcal and nongonococcal urethritis can last a long time and, if untreated, may cause scarring and narrowing of the urethra (urethral stricture).
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