Urethral discharge can be a sign of an infection, called “urethritis.” Most often, this type of infection is the result of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The same bacteria and protozoa that cause certain STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis also cause urethritis.
Symptoms of urethritis in men typically include urethral discharge, penile itching or tingling, and dysuria. A diagnosis can be made on the basis of any one of the following is present: discharge, a positive result on a leukocyte esterase test in first-void urine, or at least 10 white blood cells per high-power field in urine sediment. The primary pathogens associated with urethritis are Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Urethral discharge culture is a laboratory test done on men and boys to identify germs in the urethra that may be causing an infection (urethritis).
Below are listed six possible causes that result in urethral discharge.
- A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects part of the urinary tract. When it affects the lower urinary tract it is known as a simple cystitis (a bladder infection) and when it affects the upper urinary tract it is known as pyelonephritis (a kidney infection). In some cases, a painful burning sensation in the urethra may be present even when not urinating. In the elderly and the very young, symptoms may be vague or non-specific. The main causal agent of both types is Escherichia coli.
- Reactive arthritis is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis (joint disease due to inflammation). It occurs in reaction to an infection by certain bacteria. Most often, these bacteria are in the genitals (Chlamydia trachomatis) or the bowel (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella and Yersinia).
- Urethritis is when the urethra is inflamed. Urethra carries the urine through a tube from the bladder to outside the body. Pain with urination is the main symptom of urethritis. Urethritis is commonly due to infection by bacteria.
- Urethral stricture is a medical condition that mainly affects men. Urethral stricture involves constriction of the urethra, that is a result of the inflammation or the presence of scar tissue. Urethral stricture occurs specifically in the urethra. Urethra is a tube like structure which is present inside a body. In healthy males, the urethra is wide enough for urine to flow freely through it. A urethral stricture is when the urethra narrows down. Urinary flow can be slightly or severely restricted.
- Trichomoniasis is a common cause of vaginitis. It is a sexually transmitted infection, and is caused by the single-celled protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis producing mechanical stress on host cells and then ingesting cell fragments after cell death. Trichomoniasis is primarily an infection of the urogenital tract; the most common site of infection is the urethra and the vagina in women.
- Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. This infection is easily spread because it often causes no symptoms and may be unknowingly passed to sexual partners. In fact, about 75% of infections in women and 50% in men are without symptoms.