Complications of Urethritis

If urethritis is not treated it may cause complications which will lead to further morbidity.  The following complications may occur when urethritis is not treated properly:

  • Spread of infection
  • If urethritis is not treated the infection may spread to other parts of the urinary tract like the kidneys, prostate, epididymis and bladder.  This will result in further pain, fever, nausea and malaise.  Urethritis may spread and lead to the patient developing prostatitis, nephritis, epididymitis and cystitis.  Therefor it is important to treat urethritis early before any spread of infection occurs.

  • Infertility
  • With recurrent urethritis, the tracts of the reproductive system may be damaged which may lead to infertility.  This is not extremely common and usually only occurs in patients who have had many episodes of urethritis.

  • Strictures
  • Urethral strictures may be caused by untreated urethritis or repeated episodes of urethritis. Strictures are caused by scar tissue in the urethra which eventually causes parts of the urethra to become narrowed and blocked.  This may eventually lead to the complete inability to urinate which may become a medical emergency.  Patients with urethral strictures need to be referred to urologists for further management and treatment.

  • Increased risk for other infections
  • The lining of the urethra is an important barrier for preventing other sexually transmitted diseases as well as HIV infection.  Urethritis causes this protective lining to become disrupted and increases the man’s chances to acquire other infections.  A study has shown that HIV viral titers are higher in HIV positive men with urethritis than in HIV positive men without urethritis.

  • Reactive arthritis
  • Infection of the urethra may lead to a reactive arthritis.  Reactive arthritis is when one or more joints in the body become inflamed.  The inflammation is caused by an infection which occurs somewhere else in the body, usually an infection of the abdomen or urethra.  Urethritis is the most common trigger of reactive arthritis.  About 1 in 100 patients who have urethritis also develop reactive arthritis.