Nongonococcal Urethritis

Inflammation of the urethra in men that may be caused by several different organisms

  • Can affect sexually active males of any age
  • Affects men. Women can carry the infection
  • Unprotected sex with multiple partners is a risk factor
  • Genetics is not a significant factor

Inflammation of the male urethra (the tube leading from the bladder to the tip of the penis) that is not due to the bacterium causing gonorrhoea is known as nongonococcal urethritis (NGU). Worldwide, NGU is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in men.

What are the causes?

About half of all cases of NGU are due to a bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis, which can also infect the female reproductive organs (see Chlamydial pelvic infection). NGU can also be due to the bacterium, Ureaplasma urealyticum; the protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis, which also causes trichomoniasis; and the fungus Candida albicans, which can cause candidiasis. The viruses that cause genital warts and genital herpes can also result in NGU. Often, no cause is found.

What are the symptoms?

About 1–6 weeks after you have become infected with NGU, the following group of symptoms may develop:

  • Pain on passing urine, especially the first time in the morning.

  • Discharge from the penis.

  • Redness and soreness at the opening of the urethra.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should go to a clinic specializing in STIs or consult your doctor.

Are there complications?

Various complications may result from NGU, including inflammation of the prostate gland (see Prostatitis), symptoms of which include pain at the base of the penis and frequent, painful urination. Occasionally, the testes and the epididymides (the tubes carrying sperm from the testes) become inflamed (see Epididymo-orchitis). The infection may trigger an immune response that causes inflammation of the joints (see Reactive arthritis).

What might be done?

Your doctor will take a swab from your urethra, together with a urine sample, to check for the presence of an infectious organism that could cause NGU. Tests for other STIs will probably be carried out at the same time.

Depending on the organism found, your doctor may then prescribe antibiotics, antifungal drugs, or antiviral drugs. With treatment, NGU usually clears up in about a week; however, it sometimes returns, and treatment may need to be repeated. You can also be reinfected if your sexual partner has the disease. Sexual partners must be tested and treated even if they have no symptoms because in women the infection causes pelvic inflammation, which can lead to infertility (see Female infertility).

Can it be prevented?

The risk of contracting NGU can be reduced by following safe sex measures (see Preventing STIs). To avoid spreading the infection, it is important that you do not have sexual contact until you and your partner have finished your treatment and your doctor confirms that you are no longer infected.

Self-Help: Preventing STIs

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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