Inflammation of the urethra, also known as urethritis in medical terminology, is an inflammation of the urethral mucosa. Men and women can be equally affected by this condition.
What is urethritis?
This inflammation of the urethral mucosa is divided into a specific and a non-specific form of the disease. However, the specific form of urethritis is far more common.
Discharge and pain and burning when urinating are usually clear symptoms of urethritis. However, if this is recognized early and treated properly, the chances of complete recovery are quite good.
You should not confuse the urethritis with a bladder infection. Although both are among the lower urinary tract infections, they must be clearly distinguished from one another.
Basically, a distinction is made between specific urethritis – this is triggered by a specific form of bacteria, the gonococci, and is the most common form of the disease.
The unspecific inflammation of the urethra is in turn triggered by chlamydia, corynebacteria, mycoplasma or trichomonads. A urethritis is sexually transmitted and in this case also contagious. But there are other causes for the onset of urethritis in question.
Mechanical irritation, for example, can trigger the disease just as easily as allergic reactions. Even lubricants can be the trigger for urethritis. A urethritis as a result is also not uncommon, especially with heavily seasoned or salty foods.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
A main symptom of urethritis (urethritis) is burning when urinating. There is also a purulent, glassy and cloudy discharge. The urge to urinate is greatly increased. There is often severe pain at the exit opening of the ureter.
In addition, it is often very red and itches unbearably. The symptoms of inflammation of the urethra (urethritis) are the same in women and men. However, they are often different. Men often have significantly more severe symptoms because their urethra is much longer. In some women, the urethritis is even almost symptomless. Others only suffer from an uncomfortable feeling when urinating.
However, complications can occur in both women and men if urethritis is left untreated. In women, the inflammation can spread to the fallopian tubes and ovaries. This can lead to abscesses and gluing of the fallopian tubes. As a result, there is a risk of infertility.
However, ovarian inflammation can also spread to the peritoneum and cause life-threatening peritonitis. In men, the inflammation sometimes spreads to the testicles and prostate. In addition, because of their longer ureter, the pain and burning in the ureter are much more pronounced than women. In both sexes, urethritis can also lead to a narrowing of the urethra.
Diagnosis & History
The diagnosis of urethritis can usually be made unequivocally based on the symptoms present. A whitish to green discharge from the urethra is one of these symptoms, as is an itching and burning sensation in the urethra. The discharge is usually mucous and is also referred to by doctors as urethral fluor.
Most affected patients also complain of pain or burning when urinating. The opening of the urethra is visibly red and swollen. In about 25 percent of cases, urethritis causes no symptoms at all and goes completely unnoticed.
Female patients in particular often do not notice the disease. The symptoms of an urethritis are not dissimilar to those of a bladder infection – both diseases belong to the lower urinary tract infections.
However, in order to be able to make a clear diagnosis, the doctor treating you will take a smear test from the urethra. An examination of this smear under the microscope will then determine the exact causative agent of the urethritis. A urine sample can also provide information about possible pathogens. The course of the disease depends on the particular trigger: the disease often only breaks out after a few days or even weeks. If this is then treated professionally, it heals without consequential damage.
If left untreated, urethritis can result in serious complications. The pathogens can spread to other organs – in men this can be the epididymis or the prostate gland; in a woman, the fallopian tubes and ovaries can be affected.
In the worst case, this inflammation of the fallopian tubes or ovaries can even lead to infertility. Pregnant women should also be careful with urethritis, because the pathogens can be transmitted to the child, which in turn can trigger conjunctivitis.
In most cases, the urethritis causes relatively severe and burning pain, which occurs primarily when urinating. Both men and women are equally affected by this disease. In many cases, the pain leads to psychological complaints or other upsets and depressions.
Those affected intentionally drink less fluids and therefore suffer from dehydration. This generally has a negative effect on the health of the patient and can lead to various complaints. It also causes itching in different parts of the body. In the further course, the urethritis can also lead to a bladder infection.
This is also usually associated with severe pain, which can also spread to other regions of the body. If the urethritis is not treated, it can also lead to infertility or conjunctivitis. As a rule, there are no further complications in the treatment of urethritis.
This is carried out with the help of antibiotics and leads relatively quickly to a positive course of the disease. As a rule, life expectancy is not reduced by urethritis.
When should you go to the doctor?
A urethritis must always be treated by a doctor. Early diagnosis can contribute to a more positive course of the disease and prevent possible complications. The doctor should be consulted if there is a discharge from the urethra. This can be either yellowish or white. Pain when urinating also usually indicates a urethritis. If this pain persists for several days and does not go away on its own, you should see a doctor.
The pain is mostly burning. Furthermore, itching on the body often indicates urethritis if it occurs without a particular reason. If a urethritis is suspected, a general practitioner or a urologist can be consulted. In serious cases or if the pain is very severe, you can go to the hospital or call an ambulance. In most cases, however, the disease can be treated relatively well and there are no further complications or other symptoms.
Treatment & Therapy
Treatment of urethritis depends on the underlying cause. If bacteria or fungi are known to be the trigger, antibiotics or antifungal agents are usually used.
Patients should drink enough and dress warmly. Cold feet in particular should be avoided in the case of urethritis.
Some home remedies such as currant or cranberry juice have already proven themselves as part of the treatment. You should refrain from sexual intercourse until the urethritis has completely subsided in order not to infect your partner.
Outlook & Forecast
Normally, urethritis has a favorable prognosis. Nevertheless, it depends on various influencing factors that must be taken into account in the individual assessment of the patient. In most cases, women in particular experience a mild form of the disease. There are often no significant symptoms, which makes it difficult to diagnose and increases the risk of complications.
Under optimal conditions, spontaneous healing and complete recovery of the patient occurs after a few weeks. Medical care is not always necessary in these cases. In the event of an unfavorable course of the disease, complications arise. These include in particular venereal diseases.
If the urethra becomes infected, treatment should be sought. The pathogens usually spread within a short time and cause a deterioration in the general state of health. Medication can prevent the germs from multiplying and enable a speedy recovery. Consequential damage is not to be expected.
Doctors speak of an unfavorable course if the inflammation spreads further in the organism and affects other organs or surrounding tissue. In women there is a risk of complications in the menstrual cycle and, in the case of an existing pregnancy, abortion. Men can experience painful inflammation of the prostate, leading to impaired sexual functioning.
Since urethritis is caused in many cases by unprotected sexual intercourse, one should be particularly careful here. The use of condoms can therefore definitely help to prevent urethritis.
Many babies are given preventive pathogen-killing eye drops after birth to prevent conjunctivitis that can result from urethritis.
After recovering from urethritis, the responsible urologist or gynecologist must be consulted again. The urethritis can persist for a few days and sometimes cause further complications that need to be clarified by a doctor. It may be necessary to restart the treatment, for example if the symptoms persist or the inflammation returns.
Patients who have been diagnosed with urethritis should avoid cold and moisture in the intimate area after the treatment is completed. The genital area should continue to be protected until the disease has completely resolved. If problems with urination or other complications appear after a few days, a doctor must be consulted in any case.
It is possible that urethritis has already developed into a chronic disease. In any case, urethritis is an ailment that must be monitored by a doctor even after the end of treatment. Permanent observation by the attending doctor is particularly important for people who suffer from chronic complaints.
The doctor will examine the urethra using a suitable method and can thus determine whether the inflammation has completely subsided or whether further measures need to be taken. Follow-up care also includes a healthy diet and sufficient exercise.
You can do that yourself
In addition to drug therapy, it is generally important in the case of urethritis to drink a lot and – even if the infection causes pain when urinating – to go to the toilet regularly. Furthermore, the body and in particular the pelvic floor region should be kept warm (e.g. with a hot -water bottle and heating pad ). Avoid sitting on a cold surface for long periods of time.
In addition, some home remedies help: fruit juices such as cranberry or lingonberry juice or a bath in warm salt water. A healthy diet without alcohol, coffee, citrus juices or high-sugar drinks is recommended.
Folk medicine offers various medicinal plants that can be drunk as a tea or used as a dressing. Classic medicinal herbs for urethritis include nettle, goldenrod, rosehip, juniper and horsetail. An effective homeopathic remedy is Cantharis.
Sick people should pay attention to comprehensive intimate hygiene. However, long showers and the use of perfumed and irritating care products are not recommended, as this can further irritate the urethra. If you have a sexually transmitted urethritis, you should avoid sex until you have recovered. In order to avoid reinfection, the partner should also be examined and treated if necessary.