Urethritis is the term to describe inflammation or irritation of the urinary tract (urethra). The condition is characterised by a discharge from the urethra. The discharge may be due to infectious and non-infectious causes. A diagnosis of "non-specific" urethritis is made when symptoms and signs are present but laboratory tests do not identify an organism.
The bacteria most commonly associated with urethritis is Neisseria gonorrhoea, giving rise to the term gonococcal and non-gonococcal urethritis. Infection is transmitted from person to person by sexual contact. Other organisms associated with urethritis include Chlamydia trachomatis (15-40% of cases), Ureaplasma urealyticum (10-40%), Mycoplasma genitalium (15-25%), and rarely Trichomonas vaginalis, Candida albicans (yeast), Haemophilus sp., Neisseria meningitides and Herpes simplex virus.
Infection is not always associated with symptoms. When symptoms or signs are present, in men, the syndrome may present as a slight, white, cloudy fluid discharge from the penis, occasionally associated with a burning or uncomfortable sensation when passing water, particularly first thing in the morning. In women urethritis may present as urethral discharge, frequent, painful or difficult urination.
The majority of urethral infections caused by N. gonorrhoeae among men produce symptoms that cause them to seek curative treatment. Among women, infection may not give rise to symptoms. As a result, women are less likely to seek treatment and more likely to suffer the consequences of advanced such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID scarring of fallopian tubes scarring which in turn can lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy).
Created: 11th May 2007
Last updated: 7 May 2008