A – Z of Illnesses & Conditions

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Urethritis: Urethritis is swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the female body. Urethritis may be caused by bacteria or a virus. The same bacteria that cause urinary tract infection (E. coli) and some sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea can lead to urethritis.

Viral causes of urethritis include herpes and cytomegalovirus. Other causes include injury, sensitivity to the chemicals used in spermicides or contraceptive jellies and creams.

Urethritis is the most common condition diagnosed and treated among men in GUM clinics or sexual health clinics in the UK. There are around 80,000 men diagnosed with urethritis every year. It is more difficult to diagnose urethritis in women because it may not cause as many symptoms. 

In women, urethritis rarely has any symptoms. Symptoms in men include:
  •     a painful or burning sensation when urinating
  •     the tip of the penis feeling irritated and sore
  •     a white or cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis 
Practising safer sex is the best way to reduce the chances of geting Urethritis.

If you think you have urethritis, you should visit your local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual health clinic. These clinics have access to specialist diagnostic equipment that your doctor may not have.

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