Urinary tract infections, also known as U-T-Is, are very common. They happen most often in women.
One type of U-T-I is called urethritis. This means the urethra is inflamed. Your urethra is the tube that carries urine from your bladder to outside your body.
Urethritis can occur due to bacteria from the digestive tract. Bacteria can cling to the opening of the urethra. Sometimes they multiply and cause an infection. The infection can cause swelling and irritation of the urethra.
Most urethritis infections are caused by bacteria called E. coli. These bacteria usually live in the colon. Urethritis can also be caused by a virus.
Other causes of urethritis include injury, or chemicals in bath oils and other hygiene products.
Pregnant women can get urethritis due to changes in their urine, pressure on the bladder, and other normal changes during pregnancy.
Sometimes urethritis is passed on through sexual activity. When this happens, both partners need to be examined and treated.
With urethritis, you may need to urinate more often and in smaller amounts. You may have pain or burning when you urinate. There may be a fluid discharge from the penis or vagina. Sex may be painful. In older men, urethritis can cause dribbling of urine.
To find out if you have urethritis, your healthcare provider will check your medical history and give you a physical exam. He or she may test your urine. This is called a urinalysis. Urinalysis can test for many different kinds of substances. These can include bacteria, cells, protein, enzymes, sugar, and more. The appearance of the urine is checked to see if it’s clear or cloudy, and if the color is normal. A urine culture may be done. This is a test to see which kinds of bacteria are in the urine.
Your healthcare provider may do a cystoscopy. This is done using a flexible tube with a camera. The scope is put into the urethra. The bladder and urinary tract are checked. Other tests may also be done.
If you have a bacterial infection, it will be treated with antibiotics. Sitz baths several times a day can help ease the pain. A sitz bath is when you sit in a tub with only a few inches of water in the bottom. Over the counter medications can also help with pain.
Do not have sexual intercourse until the infection goes away. You may need a follow-up urine culture to make sure it’s gone. When urethritis does not clear up after use of antibiotics and lasts 6 weeks or more, it is called chronic urethritis. Other antibiotics may be used to treat it.
Urethritis due to trauma or chemicals is treated by avoiding the source of the injury or irritation.
With the right diagnosis and treatment, urethritis can be cured without any additional problems.
These tips can help keep your urinary tract healthy. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Drink cranberry juice, too. It has been shown to help stop bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urethra. Vitamin C supplements may also help. Cut down on alcohol and caffeine, because they can irritate the urethra. Don’t use bubble bath or bath oils that may irritate the urethra. Don’t resist the urge to urinate -- go when you need to. Whenever you urinate, wash the area afterward using plain, unscented soap. This helps keep bacteria from entering the urethra or vagina.
Things to Remember
- Take antibiotics as directed until they are gone. Don’t stop taking them when you feel better.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Do not have sexual intercourse until the infection is gone.
What We Have Learned
Urethritis is an inflammation of the tube that takes urine from the body. True or false?
The answer is True. Your urethra is the tube that leads from your bladder and moves urine out of your body.
Antibiotics are used to treat all kinds of urethritis. True or false?
The answer is False. Only urethritis due to bacteria is treated with antibiotics.
Urethritis can be caused by a reaction to chemicals. True or false?
The answer is True. Chemicals in bubble bath or other hygiene products can cause urethritis.