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There are a number of possible causes of urethritis. Finding out what’s causing your symptoms is vital in order to ensure you get the correct treatment and can recover as quickly as possible.

Here are some of the most common causes of urethritis.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

STIs are one of the main causes of urethritis. They are contracted through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex.

They are more likely to cause urethritis among people who are sexually active, particularly those who have recently begun a relationship with a new partner. If this is the case for you, part of your diagnosis may involve taking tests to confirm or rule out certain STIs.

Common causes of urethritis that are linked to STIs include:

  • Gonococcal urethritis - This is caused by the same bacteria that cause gonorrhoea, and accounts for around 20% of urethritis cases.
  • Chlamydia - Not all infections that cause urethritis are sexually transmitted, but the chlamydia trachomatis bacteria responsible for chlamydia is another common cause.
  • Parasitic infection - Urethritis can be caused by parasites such as trichomonas vaginalis, which is passed on during unprotected vaginal sex.

Non-sexual infections

While STIs are a common cause of urethritis, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. There are many other infections that may cause symptoms, including:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) - UTIs have a number of possible causes, including kidney stones, not fully emptying your bladder, having a catheter inserted, or a weak immune system. They are also more common in pregnant women.
  • Herpes - The herpes simplex virus is responsible for cold sores, and occasionally STIs too.
  • Adenovirus - These are normally responsible for common viruses like colds and flu, but can also cause urethritis.

For women, wiping your bottom from back to front, rather than front to back, also allows bacteria to get into the urethra.

Other causes

If an infection isn’t to blame, urethritis is often caused by one of the following issues:

Damage to the urethra

The urethra could become damaged by:

  • An injury caused during sex or masturbation
  • Squeezing the urethra (men only)
  • Inserting or removing a catheter

Irritation of the urethra

The urethra may become irritated if you use:

  • Soaps
  • Deodorants
  • Spermicidal lubricant

However, for some people, urethritis may not have an obvious cause. This is known as non-specific urethritis (NSU). In this case, all the doctor can do is treat the symptoms and recommend that you monitor the situation, so that a cause can be identified if it happens again.

Once the cause of your urethritis has been identified, our doctors can prescribe the most effective treatment.

When is it safe to have sex again?

You should avoid any form of sexual contacted (even if you use a condom) until you and your partner have had follow-up tests to confirm that the gonorrhoea infection is completely gone.

These follow-up tests are usually given 1-2 weeks after you’ve had treatment. You’ll both be tested again to see if any gonorrhoea bacteria is still present.

Remember that successful treatment does not mean you can’t get gonorrhoea again, so you should continue to practise safer sex afterwards.

Gonorrhoea symptoms in the throat

If you have unprotected oral sex, you can get a gonorrhoea infection in your throat. However, this rarely produces any symptoms, with 90% of people not aware that they have an infection.

A sore throat is the only real sign, and of course this is quite a common symptom that can easily be dismissed as something that will go away on its own.

Despite this, it’s still important to get tested in order to avoid any potential health complications.