Urethritis: an inflammation of the urethra

The urethra is the tube through which urine leaves the body from the bladder. A bacterial infection can cause the urethra to become inflamed. The cause may be chlamydia or gonorrhea. Infection usually occurs through sexual contact. The complaints are pain and a burning sensation when urinating. It is considered an STD and therefore you must be careful during sexual contact. Women can even become infertile if it is not treated.

The urethra

In a man, the urethra runs from the bladder to the end of the penis. In a woman, the urethra is a lot shorter and runs from the bladder to the end of the vagina. On the inside, the urethra is lined with a thin mucous membrane. This mucous membrane can become inflamed because bacteria adhere to the inside of the urethra.


With urethritis, bacteria enter the urethra and attach themselves to the mucous membrane. This can cause the inside of the urethra to become inflamed. Although it usually occurs as a result of sexual contact, it can sometimes occur for another reason. Sometimes the cause remains unknown and no bacteria are found. It is also possible that the opening of the urethra has become inflamed and is pushing inwards. This can occur, for example, if a man has been circumcised and the foreskin has been surgically removed.


If the urethra becomes inflamed, it can cause a painful and burning sensation, especially during urination. The exit may be red, irritated and somewhat swollen. This condition is usually the result of sexual contact with an infected bed partner, during which the chlamydia or gonorrhea bacteria are transmitted. In men, clear mucus or some yellow pus may come from the urethra. Colloquially this is also called a drip. If you have this, you have an STD (=sexually transmitted disease).


When it comes to chlamydia or gonorrhea, this can be clearly demonstrated with a urine test. When you pass urine, try to collect the first bit of urine because this will contain most bacteria. Also try not to urinate for a few hours if you want to pass urine. The collected urine or in some cases the pus from the urethra is cultured. The results will be known after about a week.


Because it is an inflammation, treatment consists of antibiotics to combat the bacteria. As with all antibiotic treatments, you have to finish it. If the complaints are gone, it does not mean that all bacteria are immediately gone. If you stop the treatment too early, the bacteria can strike again and cause inflammation again. If gonorrhea is present, you will usually receive a one-time injection of antibiotics. Good hygiene also plays an important role. If you still have complaints after treatment, or if the urethral infection returns, do not hesitate to have yourself re-examined by your doctor. You may need a different type of antibiotic to correct the problem.

Is it serious?

In principle it is not serious, but it is better to have it treated. Women can sometimes become infertile due to an untreated STD. As long as you are not yet sure whether you have an STD infection, it is better to take measures so that you do not infect someone else: sex is therefore always safe. Please note that you may still be able to infect someone else up to about a week after treatment. That is why it is better to avoid sexual contact or at least use a condom.

Warn partners

As is important with any form of STD, it is important to tell your sexual partner(s) about the past six months, even if you find it difficult to say. Even if they indicate that they have no complaints, it is still wise for them to be checked by their GP. This prevents them from infecting other people.

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