Urethritis is the swelling and irritation of the tube that transports urine from the bladder (urethra). Treatment for urethritis involves dealing with the underlying cause, which can include infections as well as injury or trauma.
Many cases of urethritis are caused by infections, such as sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Treatment for this type of urethritis involves:
- Eliminating the infection
- Providing relief from symptoms
- Preventing transmission of the infection to sexual partners
- Encouraging less risky behavior to prevent recurrence of infection
- Identifying and treating sexual partners
The STIs that cause urethritis can also co-occur with other infections, such as HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B. These secondary infections must also be treated.
Antibiotics: Antibiotics, such as azithromycin (Zithromax) or cefixime (Suprax) can treat the underlying infection. When applicable, a patient's partner must also be treated for the same infection.
Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain medications can help someone deal with any discomfort caused by the urethritis. If symptoms are severe enough, a medication such as phenazopyridine (Pyridium) may also be prescribed.
Chemical or Traumatic Urethritis
If urethritis is not caused by an infection, it is likely the result of an injury or a chemical irritant. Treatment for this type of urethritis involves eliminating the source of injury or irritation. This can include:
- Switching to a new kind of catheter, if one is being used
- Using soaps and lubricants that are fragrance free
- Avoiding spermicides
Prognosis and Complications of Urethritis
The symptoms of infectious urethritis (usually) fade eventually, even without treatment. Treating the underlying infection, however, will reduce the risk of spreading it to one's sexual partner and can prevent the infection from spreading throughout the urinary tract.
The most common complications of urethritis in men are:
- Infection of the bladder (cystitis)
- Swelling of the tube on the back of the testicle where sperm mature (epididymitis)
- Infection of the testicles (orchitis) or prostate (prostatitis)
- Narrowing of the urethra due to scar tissue
In women, complications of urethritis include:
- Infection of the bladder (cystitis) or cervix (cervicitis)
- Infection of the ovaries, uterine lining, or fallopian tubes (pelvic inflammatory disease), which may decrease fertility
Brill, JR. (2010). Diagnosis and treatment of urethritis in men. Am Fam Physician. 81:873-878.