Urethritis is a bacterial or viral infection that causes inflammation of the urethra (the tube carrying urine from the bladder to the outside of the body). It's commonly caused by a sexually transmitted infection during unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Non-specific Urethritis (NSU) refers to Urethritis that is neither caused by gonorrhoea nor chlamydia. NSU may not be caused by casual sex; irritation from a catheter or soap can be responsible.
The terms NGU and NSU though slightly different in meaning are sometimes used interchangeably. Untreated NGU/NSU can cause:
NGU and NSU are caused by an infection transmitted during unprotected anal, oral and vaginal sex. In rare cases, excessive friction during sex or masturbation or an allergic reaction to detergent or soap can cause NSU.
For HIV-infected persons not taking HIV treatment, untreated NGU/NSU can increase the viral load in genital fluids and make them more infectious. However, for those infected but taking HIV treatment, their chances of passing on HIV is less.
HIV-free persons infected with NGU/NSU can get infected with HIV on exposure to the virus.
Signs and symptoms of NGU/NSU may be immediate, mild, or even unnoticed. Sometimes, symptoms may take weeks to develop. Other times, irritants like soap can cause symptoms to occur almost immediately.
Some people's symptoms may be so mild and go undetected.
If symptoms occur, they can be:
Using protection like a condom during anal, oral, or vaginal sex is an effective way of avoiding the infections that cause NGU/NSU or passing it on to somebody else.
Other measures include:
Getting tested is not only quick and easy, it’s the only way to know for sure
if you do or do not have an STD.
There are HIV treatment centres that have an associated sexual health clinic where free and confidential treatment can be obtained without any referral from your GP or doctor.
Testing for NGU/NSU can be done during a general sexual health checkup at a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or a sexual health clinic.
GUM clinics are open, confidential and free to access. NGU/NSU is diagnosed for men by either a swab test on the tip of the penis or by a urine test or often both.
In most cases, it's possible to detect NGU instantly, but it can take up to a week for tests to identify the presence of chlamydia.
Women are only tested if their partner is infected with NGU. A chlamydia test can be done on a vaginal swab taken by the woman herself or a cervical swab taken by a nurse or doctor.
NGU/NSU is treated with antibiotics. It normally consists of a 7-day course of doxycycline. However, a 5-day course of azithromycin or a 7-day course of ofloxacin may also be recommended.
Taking all tablets according to prescription is very important to ensure the infection is completely cleared.
The azithromycin antibiotic takes time to work so; symptom may last for a few days after taking it.
If you're NGU/NSU-infected, you may speak with a healthcare giver who will advise you on safe sex. You may have to contact your sexual partners so they can be tested and treated too.
A follow-up may be done 2 or 3 weeks after at the clinic or over the phone to ensure you've been cured. All these are to prevent re-infection. You're advised not to have sex (even with a condom) until the treatment is completed and you're symptoms-free.