Also called NSU or NGU

Urethritis is an inflammation of a man’s urethra (the tube you pee through).

Key points

  1. Urethritis is usually due to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea although there are other causes as well.
  2. Urethritis usually occurs from having vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom, or sex play.
  3. If you use a condom every time you have sex you are much less likely to get urethritis.
  4. Testing for the underlying cause involves a swab test from the urethra and a urine test.
  5. You need to tell anyone you have had sex with in the last 3 months that they should get a sexual health check and treatment.
  6. You should use condoms or avoid sex for 7 days after you have started your treatment and until 7 days after all current sexual partner(s) have been treated. This is so that you, and they, don't get re-infected.

What are the causes of urethritis?

Urethritis is usually due to sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. It can also be caused by injuring the urethra (the tube you pee through) through sex play. Other conditions can give the same symptoms, eg, prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) or a urinary tract infection (UTI). Sometimes no cause can be found and then it is called non-specific urethritis (NSU) or non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU).

What are the symptoms of urethritis?

Common symptoms may include:

  • a white or cloudy discharge from your penis
  • pain or discomfort when urinating (peeing)
  • irritation or soreness of your penis tip.

How is urethritis diagnosed?

To test for gonorrhoea and chlamydia you will have a sample of fluid taken from the inside of your penis with a swab (like a cotton bud). You will also be asked to provide a urine sample. These samples will be sent to a lab for analysis.  

What is the treatment for urethritis?

If you have an infection, urethritis is usually treated with antibiotic tablets. Sometimes you may need an injection.

It's important that you tell anyone you have had sex with in the last 3 months. They will also need to get a sexual health check and be treated.

You should avoid having sex for a week after you start your treatment and until a week after all your sexual contacts have been treated. If this isn’t possible, use a condom for any sort of sex.

You will be followed up in a week or so to see how the treatment is going. A check-up in 3 months is recommended as it's possible to be re-infected. 


  1. Urethritis Auckland Sexual Health Service, Te Whatu Ora, NZ
  2. Urethritis patient information NZ Sexual Health Society
  3. Non-gonococcal urethritis NHS, UK

Information for healthcare providers

Urethritis – clinician guideline Sexual health society, NZ
Treatment of sexually transmitted and other genital infections BPAC, NZ

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Associate Professor Sue Wells, Public Health Physician, University of Auckland Last reviewed: 07 Feb 2023