Non-specific urethritis (NSU)

Urethritis means inflammation, a sign that your body is reacting to a problem (which may include infection as well as other damage to tissues) in the urethra (the tube that takes urine out of the body). Non-specific, means there is no named cause for the inflammation. You can say no known cause yet, because a large number of NSU turn out to be caused by Chlamydia. Sometimes no bacteria is identified. However, because an STI is most often the cause, antibiotics and advice on treating partners is given. NSU affects the penis only.

How do I get it?

STIs and other causes of NSU pass into the urethra (penis tube) during unprotected (without a condom) vaginal, anal or oral sex.  A small number of NSU causes cannot be linked to infection passed from sex. Rarely allergies or reactions to chemical products and trigger inflammation in the urethra.  You cannot get NSU from kissing, hugging or from toilet seats.

What might I notice if I have it (Symptoms)?

It may take several weeks for symptoms to show.

Symptoms include:

  • pain or burning feeling when passing, or just after passing, urine (having a pee)
  • irritation or itchy feeling in the penis tube
  • unusual liquid (discharge) coming out of your pee hole – can be watery, cloudy or creamy

How do I get tested?

If you have symptoms you should go to a sexual health clinic to get tested. This includes send-away tests for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea, but also includes swab tests that can give a while you wait result. A swab is a small thin plastic stick (about 1mm thick), with a tiny loop at the end. It is wiped over the very end of your penis hole to pick up discharge and moisture. It only takes a few seconds and isn’t usually painful, though it may be uncomfortable for a moment, like a scratch. The swab is then rubbed on a small piece of glass which can be analysed under a microscope in the clinic.

What is the Treatment?

Usually a 1-week course of antibiotics to take by mouth as well as advice on having no sex while on treatment and to contact any partners to get them tested and treated (especially before you resume sex with them).