Urethritis is a condition that causes swelling and inflammation of the urethra; the tube that transports urine out of the body. Both men and women can get urethritis and it's a relatively common complaint that is often successfully treated with a course of antibiotics. However, in some cases, urethritis can increase the risk of a number of diseases affecting the bladder, prostate and other areas within the pelvic region.
In women, urethritis can increase the risk of cystitis, although the two are often quite difficult to distinguish. Cystitis is an inflammation and swelling of the bladder which can cause frequent urination, a burning sensation when passing urine and may also be a reason for the presence of blood in the flow. If the cause of the urethritis is an infection, it is possible that the bacteria infecting the urethra could also infect the bladder. Men with urethritis may also be more susceptible to cystitis, although it's much more common among women.
Women suffering from urethritis may also be vulnerable to cervicitis; an inflammation of the cervix. If the urethritis is caused by a sexually transmitted disease, there is an increased risk of cervicitis which is most commonly caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea. Symptoms can sometimes be difficult to notice, although abnormal vaginal bleeding is a common sign so it's important not to disregard bleeding between periods or unusually heavy flow.
In men, diseases affecting the penis, testicles, and prostate are associated with urethritis. With regard to the penis, epididymitis can be a by-product of urethritis and is common if the urethritis is caused by bacterial infection as well as sexually transmitted disease, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea, that could also affect the epididymis; a tube within the penis.
Epididymitis can be quite painful, causing tender testicles, pain during urination or ejaculation and general discomfort around the groin and pelvic region as well as high fever and blood in the semen or urine. Usually, a course of antibiotics will be necessary, although pain can be eased by elevating the testicles slightly and applying ice packs to the area.
If the urethritis is related to a sexually transmitted disease, there is an increased risk of orchitis; swelling of the testicles. This can be a rather scary condition for men as it can cause lumps in the testicles which many sufferers may fear could be cancer. Fortunately, these lumps are only temporary and should go away with some anti-inflammatory medications.
As with urethritis and cystitis, urethritis and prostate infection can be difficult to distinguish as the symptoms are very similar. In men, if urethritis is not treated promptly, the bacteria have been shown to travel to the prostate and cause swelling. A swollen prostate can cause the need for frequent urination, difficulty urinating and also pain when ejaculating and is surprisingly common in men over the age of 50.
If urethritis is detected and treated promptly, the risk of these conditions is slim, so it's important to know the signs, seek treatment and also try to prevent anything that may cause urethritis such as frequent unprotected sex and good personal hygiene.