The urethra is the the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body; in men, it also carries semen from the ejaculatory ducts—the junction of the tubes leading from the testes, called the vas deferens. If the lining of a male patient's urethra becomes swollen or inflamed, the patient is suffering from urethritis. Normally urethritis is a symptom of bacterial or viral infection; most often an infection of gonorrhea. Some patients present the symptoms of urethritis while tests show no infection. When this occurs, the patient is diagnosed with non specific urethritis. Non specific urethritis (NSU) is sometimes also called non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU).
Several different sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause non specific urethritis. Infections of chlamydia or herpes are possible causes; chlamydia is responsible for nearly half of the male cases of NSU. Other infections include trichomonas vaginalis, mycoplasma genitalium or ureaplasma urealyticum. Infection by one of these viruses, bacterium or parasites can result in the symptoms of urethritis. Sexual intercourse with the protection of a condom should be sufficient to prevent the spread of these microorganisms.
Other causes of urethritis symptoms which lack a specific cause may include friction, such as vigorous sexual activity or masturbation, the insertion of foreign objects or the use of chemicals or liquids inside the urethra.
Non specific urethritis presents symptoms similar to bacterial or viral urethritis. They generally present between two and four weeks following contraction and may be very mild, often being overlooked. A common symptom is the presence of a white or milky discharge from the end of the penis; this may be more noticeable in the morning. Patients with NSU may also complain of tingling, itching or burning from the inside of the penis, especially during urination. Ejaculation may be painful. Some patients experience the sensation of needing to urinate frequently.
Diagnosis of NSU is performed through either a swab of the urethra to detect any microorganisms present or a urine test, or both. Physical examination of the urethra may be used to determine the state of progression. Before being tested, it is advisable to not urinate for two hours prior.
As for urethritis with a bacterial or parasitic cause, NSU is treated with antibiotics. These can include single dose antibiotics or a course over several days. Physicians suggest abstaining from sexual activity, including masturbation, until the course of the prescription has finished and a follow-up examination has been performed.
It is important to know that the symptoms of NSU can recur. It is also necessary to inform any sexual partners of your infection. They should be tested and examined by a physician.
Proper use of barrier protections (e.g.: condoms) are usually enough to prevent STI transmission during vaginal, oral or anal sexual activities. Use of barrier protection is suggested whenever you change sexual partners. Never use spit, petroleum jelly, baby oil or other chemical-based lubricants; they may weaken the integrity of the condom and allow tears to occur. Always use water-based lubricants.
If untreated or if treated improperly, NSU can spread into the prostate or testicles. Advanced cases can lead to infertility. If spread to female partners, NSU can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may result in infertility; women do not normally display the symptoms of NSU, so it is the male partners responsibility to inform his sexual partner(s).
Cleveland Clinic: The Male Reproductive System
Victorian Government Department of Health Better Health Channel: Non-specific Urethritis
STD Specialties Clinic: Non-specific Urethritis
University of Hawaii: Chlamydia and Nonspecific Urethritis
British Broadcasting Corporation-Health: Non-specific Urethritis (NSU)