What Is Non-Gonococcal Urethritis?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) is an infection that occurs in the urethra, which is the tube that conducts urine. It may also be referred to as nonspecific urethritis (NSU). A man or a woman may contract this sexually transmitted disease (STD) most commonly from the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium. Other types of bacteria that can cause non-gonococcal urethritis include Mycoplasma genitalium, Trichomonas vaginalis, and Ureaplasma urealyticum. Antibiotics are used to treat this infection.

A patient may be infected with non-gonococcal urethritis for one to three weeks before he will notice symptoms. Men and women may notice stains in their underwear and pain or burning while urinating. A man will experience a milky discharge from the penis, while women will have vaginal discharge. Itching, tenderness, or irritation can also occur. Women who experience abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding not related to menstruation may also have a complication of non-gonococcal urethritis, called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

While this infection is a sexually transmitted disease that can be spread via vaginal, anal, or oral sex, it can also be transmitted non-sexually. It may occur as a result of bacterial prostatitis, which leads to an inflamed prostate gland, or because of a urinary tract infection. A patient may also contract this condition after being catheterized or as a result of urethral stricture, which is a narrowing of the urethra.


Serious complications may develop if non-gonococcal urethritis is not treated. Women may develop PID, which can potentially cause an ectopic pregnancy and may also lead to infertility if it is chronic. They may also suffer from a miscarriage if they are pregnant, chronic pelvic pain, or vaginitis. Some complications that may develop in males include skin lesions and Reiter's syndrome, which is a type of arthritis. They may also develop conjunctivitis, also called pink eye.

After diagnosing a patient with non-gonococcal urethritis, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics. The most common antibiotics used include tetracycline, doxycycline, and azithromycin. Patients should inform their physicians if they have allergies to any drugs, including antibiotics. They must also avoid sexual contact while they have an active infection. The physician can let the patient know when it is safe to engage in sexual activity.

Non-gonococcal urethritis and other sexually transmitted diseases are preventable. People should wear condoms when engaging in any sexual activity. Before using a condom, they should check the expiration date and ensure that it has not been compromised. For example, leaving a condom in a wallet can wear out the material. A person can also reduce his risk of contracting an STD by limiting his number of sexual partners.


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