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Sexually Transmitted Disease Specialists

 Confidential and expert care                                                                                                                      703 532-1100


Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra (the passage in the penis that urine and semen go through). Common causes of urethritis are chlamydia, gonorrhea and genital herpes, but other bacteria or viruses may be involved. Often the cause is not identified.

There may be no symptoms of urethritis, but when symptoms are present they may include discharge from the penis, stinging or burning during urination, or itching, tingling, burning or irritation inside the penis.

Urethritis may be diagnosed with a urine sample and a swab specimen. The doctor inserts a small swab into the urethra and the sample is then examined in the laboratory for signs of infection.

Urethritis not caused by an identifiable microbe is called non-specific urethritis (NSU) or nongonococcal urethritis (NGU). The cause of NSU frequently is not known, but antibiotic treatment is usually effective. Sexual partners of men with NSU need to be examined and treated.‚Äč

Unfortunately, because a 1st void urine is unacceptable for a urethral culture, online testing for Gardnerella, Ureaplasma and Mycoplasma is currently unavailable.

What can you expect if seen in our Falls Church office with symptoms of urethritis?

First, a complete history and physical exam will be performed. Appropriate std testing may include chlamydia, gonorrhea, urinalysis and possibly a few other tests, tailored to your specific risks and concerns. You will probably be started on empiric therapy with 2 medications unless otherwise contra-indicated (such as an allergy to one of the medications). We will be treating for the most common causes of urethritis even before test results come back.

What if the test results come back negative?

It should be noted that sometimes, all of the test results come back negative. This does not mean that you did not have anything; it just means that we failed to identify the cause. There are many factors that can cause a sample to provide a false negative test result, including how the sample to be tested is collected or what happens to it between collection and testing (such as exposure to extremes of temperature). Many times, the use of antibiotics results in resolution of symptoms, strongly suggesting that the cause of your symptoms was some type of bacterial or protozoan infection, in spite of the negative test result. If this occurs, then even if this test results are negative, it is important to also treat your partner(s) with the same medications that were effective with you before you have unprotected sex with them again.