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Female Urethra  
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Definition  

Urethritis is an inflammation, infection, or irritation of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder.

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Causes  

Urethritis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses, including:

  • Organisms that cause bladder or kidney infections
  • Organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Other bacteria
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Risk Factors  

Urethritis is more common in women. Other factors that may increase your chance of urethritis include:

  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Recent change in sexual partners
  • Unprotected sex (without use of a condom)
  • History of other STDs
  • Bacterial infection of other parts of the urinary tract (bladder, kidney, prostate)
  • Medications that lower resistance to bacterial infection
  • Having catheters or tubes placed in the bladder
  • Acidic foods
  • Spermicides
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Symptoms  

People with urethritis may not have symptoms, especially women. About half of men infected with chlamydia have no symptoms.

Urethritis may cause:

  • Pain and/or burning while urinating
  • Blood in the urine
  • Increase in urinary:
    • Frequency
    • Urgency
  • Itching, swelling, and/or tenderness in the groin
  • Pain during sex

Urethritis symptoms specific to men may include:

  • Discharge from the penis
  • Blood in the semen
  • Pain during ejaculation
  • Swollen and/or tender testicles

If left untreated, urethritis can spread and cause infection in other parts of the urinary tract such as the bladder, ureters, or kidneys.

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Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It will include a pelvic exam. Urethritis is usually diagnosed from its symptoms. Tests to confirm the diagnosis and identify the organism causing the condition may include:

  • Urethral swab for microscopic study or culture
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Specific tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or other STDs
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Treatment  

Urethritis is usually treated with medication. The type of medication will depend on the cause of the urethral infection:

  • Antibiotics—to treat urethritis caused by bacteria
  • Antiviral drugs—to treat urethritis caused by a some viruses

Refraining form sexual activity recommended until 7 days after initiation of therapy.

If urethritis is caused by an STD, all sexual partners should be tested and treated.

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Prevention  

To help reduce your chance of urethritis::

  • Practicing safe sex by using condoms and barrier methods of contraception
  • Urinating immediately after having sexual intercourse
  • Treating all sexual partners who are infected or exposed
  • Regularly drinking plenty of fluids