Cause and Treatment of An Itchy Urethra in Men

The Basics on Urethritis and What It Means for Your Partner

Doctor placing multiple test stick into urine sample
Doctor placing multiple test stick into urine sample. Getty Images/IAN HOOTON/SPL

An itchy urethra or discharge from the urethra is usually from a medical condition called urethritis. Let's read about the basics of urethritis, how its diagnosed and treated, and what it means for your sex partner.

What is Urethritis?

Urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. But why does it become inflamed? The most common cause of urethritis is from a sexually transmitted infection, usually Neisseria gonorrhoeae or Chlamydia trachomatis, which causes gonorrhea and chlamydia, respectively. 

Other causes of infectious urethritis include the Trichomonas species, Mycoplasma genitalium, and viruses like adenovirus or herpes simplex virus (HSV). 

What Are The Symptoms Of Urethritis?

One or all of these symptoms may be present in urethritis:

  • urethral discharge that is pus-like – this discharge can be expressed by squeezing the penis
  • itching or tingling of the penis or urethra
  • pain or burning with urination 
  • pain and burning is typically localized near the meatus (the point where the urethra exits the body)

It's important to note that urethritis can mimic other medical conditions in men, like inflammation of the prostate, testicles, or scrotum. It can also mimic a urinary tract infection. It's important to seek care and advice from a physician to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

How is Urethritis Diagnosed and Treated?

After testing a person's urethral discharge and urine, a doctor will prescribe an antibiotic if an infection is present.

If the diagnosis is unclear, a person may be referred to a urologist for additional evaluation. Also, a doctor may test for other sexually transmitted infections, like HIV, syphilis, or hepatitis B.

According to the CDC, it's important that men who are diagnosed with urethritis from chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomonas return for a follow-up appointment 3 months after antibiotic therapy for repeat testing – due to the high rates of re-infection.

Also, all of the sex partners of people diagnosed with urethritis from a sexually transmitted infection should be referred for evaluation and treatment. Sex should be avoided until a person and his partner have been appropriately treated.

Precautions Before Infection, During Treatment, and After Treatment

There are precautions to take that will reduce your risk of getting urethritis and help you fully recover if diagnosed with urethritis. 

  • When you begin antibiotics for urethritis, ensure that your sexual partner(s) is also evaluated and treated by a doctor.
  • Even if you are feeling better and the symptoms have disappeared, take your antibiotic as prescribed until it's all gone.
  • Do not have sex until your treatment is complete and your discharge has completely resolved and gone away.
  • Always use condoms for vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
  • Follow-up with your doctor sooner than 3 months if your symptoms re-appear.
  • Condoms - The Key To Staying Healthy And Preventing Infection


Brill JR. Diagnosis and Treatment of Urethritis in Men. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Apr 1;81(7):873-78.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Diseases Characterized by Urethritis and Cervicitis. Retrieved September 29th 2015. 

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