Up to half of patients are found to have chlamydia.  Less often gonnorhoea, trichomonas or herpes are the cause. Other possible causes include a bladder infection, thrush or irritation from bacteria that live in the urethra. Some soaps, shower gels, tea tree oil or antiseptics can irritate the urethra. There can also be damage to the urethra from sex, piercings or squeezing.


You might notice:

  • discharge from the penis
  • pain when passing urine
  • the feeling that you need to pass urine frequently
  • itching or irritation at the end of the urethra.

Getting tested

If you notice discharge you may be given a swab – like a small cotton bud – so that a tiny sample of cells can be taken from the tip of the urethra. It only takes a few seconds and is not painful, though it may be uncomfortable for a moment.

You may also be asked to give a urine sample so you can be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and bladder infection.


Non-specific urethritis is treated with antibiotics. If the test shows that inflammation is present, or if there is a high chance that you have an infection, you will be given treatment even if the cause is not yet known. Your partner will also need to be treated with antibiotics.

You should not have sex until you have completed your treatment. Do not squeeze the urethra to check for discharge as this will damage the urethra and delay recovery.


  • before having sex with any new partner both get tested
  • always use a condom
  • avoid putting objects, lotions and creams into your urethra.