Urethritis may be caused by:

  • Bacteria that move into the urethra
  • Certain sexually transmitted infections, such as:
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Certain viruses such as herpes simplex
  • Fungal infections
  • Putting something in the urethra
  • Pressure or injury to the urethra
  • Irritation from soaps, douches, and spermicides

Risk Factors

Urethritis is more common in women. Things that may raise the risk are:

  • Being sexually active
  • Using spermicides
  • Having many sexual partners
  • Unprotected sex (without use of a condom)
  • A history of other STIs
  • Having catheters or tubes placed in the bladder
  • Medicines that lower resistance to bacterial infection



Some people have no symptoms. This is more common in women.

Urethritis may cause:

  • Pain or burning while urinating (peeing)
  • Blood in the urine (pee)
  • More frequent urination
  • Very strong urges to urinate
  • Itchiness or pain in the urethra
  • Pain during sex

Men may also have:

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


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done with a pelvic exam. Diagnosis may be based on symptoms.

A sample of urine will be checked for pus or blood. Further tests may be done to look for the germ that might be causing the problem.



Urethritis is usually treated with medicine. The type of medicine will depend on the cause, such as:

  • Antibiotics—if it is caused by bacteria
  • Antiviral drugs—if it is caused by some viruses
  • Antifungal drugs—if it is caused by a fungal infection

Things that cause irritation may need to be stopped or limited. The doctor may advise:

  • Not using irritating soaps or spermicides
  • Not wearing tight clothing
  • Limiting any other activity that hurts that area

Those with an STI should avoid sexual activity until treatment is done. Partners exposed to the STI should be tested.


To help reduce the risk of urethritis:

  • Practice safe sex by:
  • Using condoms.
  • Limiting your number of sexual partners.
  • Get tested for STIs if you are sexually active.
  • Do not use chemicals that irritate your urethra.
  • Do not do things that irritate your urethra.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.