Urethritis Due to Gonorrhea or Chlamydia (Adult male)

Image of male urinary tract, showing location of bladder, ureter, prostate, urethra, and testicles.

You have urethritis. This is an inflammation in the urethra. The urethra is the tube between the bladder and the tip of the penis. Urine drains out of the body through the urethra. There are 2 main types of this condition:

  • Gonococcal urethritis (GU) is an infection caused by gonorrhea.

  • Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) is an infection that is usually caused by chlamydia. Other infections can also be the cause.

Women often have no symptoms. Men are more likely to have symptoms, but may not. Symptoms can start within 1 week after infection, but can take a month or more, if they even occur. Some symptoms are:

  • Burning or pain when urinating

  • Irritation in the penis

  • Pus discharge from the penis

  • Pain and possible swelling in one or both testicles

Infections in the urethra are usually caused by sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. The most common infections are gonorrhea, chlamydia, or both.

Gonorrhea infections

Gonococcal urethritis (GU) is an infection of the urethra. It is caused by gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Gonorrhea can also be in other areas of the body. This can cause:

  • Rectal pain and discharge

  • Throat infection

  • Eye infections (conjunctivitis)

Without treatment, the infection can get worse and spread to other parts of your body. The infection can cause rashes, arthritis, and infections in your joints, heart, and brain.

Non-gonococcal infections, or NGU infections

Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) is an infection of the urethra. It is usually caused by chlamydia. Symptoms may clear up in a few weeks or months, even without treatment. However, without treatment, the bacteria that cause NGU can stay in the urethra. This means that even if symptoms clear, you can still have an infection. You can spread it to others if you are not treated.

Urethritis caused by an infection can be cured, but it needs to be treated with antibiotics. If you don't get treated, you can give it to someone else. If you give it to a woman, it can cause a serious pelvic infection and infertility.

It is important to remember that you can have an infection without symptoms. For this reason, your sexual partner(s) needs to be treated, even if he or she has no symptoms. If he or she is not treated, and you continue to have sex, you will be infected again. Your partner(s) should contact his or her own healthcare provider to be examined and treated. An urgent care clinic or the Public Health Department can also do this.

Home care

The following guidelines will help you care for yourself at home:

  • Take all the antibiotics you were given until they are used up. It is important to finish them, even if you are feeling better. This ensures the infection is completely cleared up.

  • No sex until both you and your partner(s) have finished all the antibiotics, and your healthcare provider says you are no longer contagious.

  • You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, unless you were given a different pain medicine. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or have ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, or are taking blood thinners, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

  • Aspirin should never be used in anyone under 18 years of age who has a fever.

  • Learn about and use safe sex practices. The safest sex is with a partner who has tested negative and only has sex with you. Condoms can keep some STDs from spreading, including gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV, but are not a guarantee.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. If a culture test was taken, you may call for the results as directed. Another culture test should be done 4 to 6 weeks after treatment to be sure the infection is gone. Follow up with your healthcare provider or the Public Health Department for a complete STD screening, including HIV testing. For more information about STDs, contact CDC-INFO at 800-232-4636.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • No improvement after 3 days of treatment, although you can have some symptoms longer

  • Unable to urinate

  • Rash or joint pain

  • Painful sores on the penis

  • Enlarged painful lymph nodes (lumps) in the groin

  • Testicle pain or swelling of the scrotum

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