Also Listed As:  Urethral Inflammation
Signs and Symptoms
What Causes It?
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Treatment Options
Drug Therapies
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Following Up
Special Considerations
Supporting Research

Urethritis is infection and inflammation of the lining of the urethra, the narrow tube that carries urine out of the body and which, in men, also carries semen. Urethritis is caused by bacteria and may involve the bladder, prostate, and reproductive organs. It can affect males and females of all ages; females, however, are at higher risk.

Signs and Symptoms

In both sexes, and particularly in women, there may be no symptoms of urethritis. When there are, symptoms include the following.

In men:

  • Burning during urination
  • Pus or whitish mucus discharge from the penis
  • Burning or itching around the penile opening

In women: 

  • Painful urination
  • Unusual vaginal discharge

What Causes It?
  • Bacteria and other organisms entering the urethra
  • Bruising during sexual intercourse (in women)
  • Infection reaching the urethra from the prostate gland or through the penis opening (in men)
  • Bacterial infection after you have taken a course of antibiotics
  • Reiter's syndrome
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia, syphilis, or HIV/AIDS

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

A physical examination of your genitals will be necessary, and laboratory tests will be done on a urine sample and a specimen of mucus taken from inside the urethra and, in women, the vagina.

Treatment Options
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed to eliminate the organisms causing the infection. 
  • All sex partners should be treated.
  • Sexual abstinence recommended until treatment regimen is completed, as disease can remain active even after symptoms have disappeared.

  • Limit the number of sexual partners
  • Always use condoms
  • If you experience symptoms or suspect infections, seek treatment immediately and notify all sexual partners

Drug Therapies

Depending on the cause of the infection, a physician may prescribe one of the following treatments:

  • Tetracycline (500 mg 4 times a day for seven days)
  • Erythromycin (500 mg 4 times a day for seven days; preferred in pregnancy)
  • Ceftriaxone (250 mg IM once a day)
  • Ofloxacin (400 mg once a day)
  • Ciprofloxacin (500 mg once a day)
  • Doxycycline (100 mg twice a day for 10 days)
  • Metronidazole (2 g orally once a day; don't use during in pregnancy)
  • Clindamycin (300 mg orally twice a day for seven days)
  • Acyclovir (400 mg orally 3 time a day for 10 days)
  • Famciclovir (250 to 500 mg orally twice a day for 10 days)
  • Valacyclovir (1,000 mg orally twice a day for 10 days)

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Nutrition, herbs, and homeopathic remedies are useful in fighting infection, relieving pain, and stengthening the urinary system.


You can make the following changes in your diet to help treat urethritis. 

  • Eliminate any known food allergens.
  • Eliminate refined foods, sweetened fruit juices, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, which may compromise immunity and irritate the urinary tract.
  • Cranberries and blueberries are helpful because they contain substances that stop bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
  • Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg twice a day) makes your urine more acidic, which keeps bacteria from growing.
  • Beta-carotene (25,000 to 50,000 IU per day) is necessary for immune function and healthy mucous membranes.
  • Zinc (30 to 50 mg per day) helps your immune system .


Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots.

Herbal therapy should begin at the first sign of symptoms and continue for three days after the symptoms go away. Teas provide the best treatment for infectious urethritis because the additional fluid intake helps the "flushing action." Combine two herbs from each of the following categories and drink 4 to 6 cups per day. 

Urinary antiseptics fight bacteria and include the following. 

  • Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi)
  • Buchu (Agathosma betulina)
  • Thyme leaf (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Pipissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

Urinary astringents tone and heal the urinary tract and include the following. 

  • Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
  • Plantain (Plantago major)
  • Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Urinary demulcents soothe the urinary tract and include the following. 

  • Corn silk (Zea mays)
  • Couch grass (Agropyron repens)
  • Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) is best used alone in a cold infusion. Soak 1 heaping tbsp. of marshmallow root in 1 qt. of cold water overnight. Strain and drink during the day in addition to any other urinary tea.

For advanced or recurrent infections, prepare a tincture of equal parts goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Take 30 drops four to six times per day in addition to the urinary tea. For noninfectious urethritis or for urethritis with severe pain and spasm, add kava kava (Piper methysticum) to any of the above formulas. A periwash may be helpful in reducing pain with urination. Place 1 tsp. of the coneflower/goldenseal tincture in an 8-oz. peri bottle. Fill with water. Rinse off after each time you urinate.


Some of the most common remedies used for urethritis are listed below. Usually, the dose is 3 to 5 pellets of a 12X to 30C remedy every one to four hours until your symptoms get better. 

  • Staphysagria for urinary infections associated with sexual intercourse
  • Apis mellifica for stinging pains that are made worse by warmth
  • Cantharis for intolerable urging with "scalding" urine
  • Sarsaparilla for burning after urination


Acupuncture may be helpful in enhancing your body's immune function.

Following Up

If your urethritis was caused by a sexually transmitted disease, your sexual partners may need to be treated as well.

Special Considerations

STDs can cause permanent damage to reproductive organs and infertility in both sexes. They also can cause difficulties during pregnancy, premature delivery, low birth weight, and infections in newborns. 

Supporting Research

Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace Publishers; 1995:436-437.

Berkow R, Beers MH. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Rahway, NJ: Merck and Company; 1992.

Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:432.

Bowie WR. Approach to men with urethritis and urologic complications of sexually transmitted diseases. Med Clin North Am. 1990;74:1543-1557. Accessed at www.thriveonline.com.

Carr AC, Frei B. Toward a new recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C based on antioxidant and health effects in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(6):1086-1107.

Hoffman D. The New Holistic Herbal. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books; 1995:109-110.

JAMA Patient Page. How much vitamin C do you need? JAMA. 1999;281(15):1460.

Johnston CS. Recommendations for vitamin C intake. JAMA. 1999;282(22):2118-2119.

Kruzel T. The Homeopathic Emergency Guide. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books; 1992:98-102.

Levine M, Rumsey SC, Daruwala R, Park JB, Wang Y. Criteria and recommendations for vitamin C intake. JAMA. 1999;281(15):1415-1453.

Shealy CN. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies. Boston, Mass: Element Books Limited; 1998.

Tierney LM Jr, et al., ed. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 1999. 38th ed. Stamford, Conn: Appleton & Lange; 1999.

Virtual Hospital: University of Iowa Family Practice Handbook. 3rd ed. Available at www.vh.org.

Review Date: August 1999
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Dahlia Hirsch, MD, Center for Holistic Healing, BelAir, MD; William Manahan, MD, University of Minnesota Medical School, Family Practice and Community Health, Mankato, MN.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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