Causes of Urethritis

Urethritis is most commonly caused by a bacterial or viral infection but there are also non-infectious causes of urethritis.  It is often classified as gonococcal or non-gonococcal urethritis. Gonococcal urethritis is caused by a bacterium known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae.  Non-gonococcal urethritis is caused by any other organism besides Neisseria gonorrhoeae.  Non-gonococcal urethritis can also have non-infective causes.  It is difficult to confirm the exact cause of non-gonococcal urethritis in 50% of cases. Non-gonococcal urethritis occurs more often than gonococcal urethritis.  Some men have persistent or recurrent urethritis in which a cause is often difficult to find. 

The possible causes of urethritis will briefly be discussed:

    The same bacteria that cause bladder and kidney infection, can also infect the lining of the urethra.

    The same bacteria that cause bladder and kidney infection, can also infect the lining of the urethra

  • Bacteria
  • The same bacteria that cause bladder and kidney infection, can also infect the lining of the urethra. The same bacteria that cause sexually transmitted diseases may also cause urethritis. Examples of sexually transmitted diseases which commonly cause urethritis are Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are most common in people aged 15 to 24 years.

  • Viral and Fungal infections
  • Viruses and Fungi can also infect and inflame the urethral lining and lead to urethritis. They are more uncommon than bacterial infections. Examples of viruses which cause urethritis are human papilloma virus, herpes simplex virus and Cytomegalovirus. In addition to urethritis, genital skin lesions may be present if herpes simplex is the cause. An example of a fungus that can cause urethritis is Candida. Fungal infections are usually only present in men with a lowered immune system like in men who have HIV, diabetes or cancer.

  • Non-Infective causes of Urethritis
      catheter-tip

      Catheter’s tip

    • Trauma
    • Urethritis may also be caused by a traumatic injury to the urethra. This is an important occurrence in men who intermittently catheterize themselves. Men with spinal injuries are often taught to catheterize themselves. Urethritis is 10 times more likely to occur with latex catheters than silicone catheters. Catheterization is the most common penile trauma which may lead to urethritis. Any object which is inserted into the urethra may cause injury and lead to urethritis. If a man is too rough during sexual intercourse or masturbation, he may develop penile injuries which may lead to urethritis.

    • Irritation
    • Irritation of the lining of the urethra may be caused by certain soaps and spermicidal creams. Soaps or bubble-baths which are very fragranced may irritate the urethral lining and cause urethritis.

    • Inflammatory conditions
    • Conditions which cause an inflammatory response like arthritis and Steven-Johnson syndrome can also cause urethritis. Steven-Johnson syndrome is a skin condition which is triggered by an adverse drug reaction. Steven-Johnson is a medical emergency which causes a severe skin rash.

      bladder_stones

      Urinary stones may irritate the urethra and result in urethritis

    • Urinary calculi
    • Urinary calculi (urinary stones) may irritate the urethra and result in urethritis. These urinary stones are usually formed when there is not complete emptying of the bladder. The urine left inside the bladder forms crystals which eventually become urinary stones which irritate the bladder and urethra and may lead to urethritis.

    • Foreign body
    • Any foreign body which is inserted into the urethra may cause urethritis. This is usually as a result of trauma to the lining of the urethra.