What is urethritis?

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Urethritis: Overview

Urethritis is an infection of the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. This tube is called the urethra.

The infection is often caused by bacteria. This can happen if you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But a virus may also be a cause.

Urethritis is usually treated with antibiotics. Most cases clear up with treatment. Proper treatment is very important. If you don't treat it, the infection can lead to lasting damage of the urethra. Other parts of the urinary system can also be damaged.


Urethritis is inflammation of the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body (urethra). It can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection (like some sexually transmitted infections), irritation from soap or spermicide, or injury.

Symptoms of urethritis can include:

  • Pain or burning during urination (dysuria).
  • An urgent need to urinate.
  • A need to urinate more often than usual.
  • A clear, yellow, or green discharge from the urethra.

When urethritis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotic medicine is used to treat it.

How can you care for urethritis?

  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), if needed. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Your doctor may have you take phenazopyridine (Pyridium). This is a pain medicine for the urinary tract. It can turn your urine a deep red-orange. This is normal. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Do not have sex until you are done with treatment. If you do have sex, be sure to use a condom. Your sex partner or partners should be tested too if your urethritis was caused by an STI.
  • If your infection was caused by an injury or chemicals, avoid those things if you can.

Urethritis: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You can't urinate.
  • You have symptoms of a urinary infection. For example:
    • You have blood or pus in your urine.
    • You have pain in your back just below your rib cage. This is called flank pain.
    • You have a fever, chills, or body aches.
    • It hurts to urinate.
    • You have groin or belly pain.
  • You have a hard time urinating when your bladder is full.
  • You notice mental changes or feel confused.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.