What Is Non-Specific Urethritis?

Mary McMahon

Non-specific urethritis is an infection of the urethra not associated with gonorrhea. It is often a sexually transmitted infection, although patients can contract it in other ways. Treatment requires completing a course of antibiotics and fully finishing the medication to prevent a recurrence. It is important for patients who suspect that they may have non-specific urethritis to receive an evaluation, as it can potentially spread and cause serious complications including kidney damage and loss of fertility.

Drinking cranberry juice may help relieve urethritis.
Drinking cranberry juice may help relieve urethritis.

Patients with non-specific urethritis experience a burning sensation upon urinating, a frequent urge to urinate, and a cloudy or muddy discoloration in the urine. If the infection is not treated, it can potentially spread to the bladder and may even pass through to the kidneys. In men, it may infect the prostate, while women can develop vaginal infections with non-specific urethritis. This will lead to increasing pelvic pain and discomfort.

An infection of the urethra not caused by gonorrhea is known as non-specific urethritis.
An infection of the urethra not caused by gonorrhea is known as non-specific urethritis.

A doctor can order a culture or swab test to check for common bacteria. He will usually want to rule out gonorrhea infections as well as chlamydia to determine the most appropriate antibiotic to prescribe. In addition to taking antibiotics, patients may find it helpful to drink fluids, particularly acidic fluids like cranberry juice. They should avoid sexual contact, particularly penetrative intercourse, as they could pass the bacteria on to their partners and may create a situation where partners pass the bacteria back and forth between each other, perpetuating the infection.

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Patients often start to feel better within approximately a week of starting antibiotics. It is important to make sure the infection entirely clears before resuming normal activities and going off antibiotics, as patients typically start to improve before the bacterial colonies are entirely gone. Patients who experience severe antibiotic side effects can discuss them with a doctor to see if it is possible to switch medications. If the infection appears to recur after treatment, the doctor may need to run a culture to check for antibiotic resistance and find a more suitable drug for treatment.

Untreated non-specific urethritis carries serious risks. As the infection spreads, it can cause inflammation, leading to increasing pain and soreness. The urethra may swell so much that patients cannot urinate, putting them at risk of bladder and kidney injuries. Infections in the kidneys can cause permanent damage, and the infection may lead to loss of fertility. While patients are sometimes hesitant to seek treatment for sexually transmitted infections because of embarrassment, the consequences of failing to seek treatment can be very unpleasant.

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