Urethral Discharge in Females | 8 Causes for Urethritis in Women (2023)

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Causes of urethral discharge in women

Many conditions can have urethral discharge as a symptom. The most common are those involving bacteria transmitted during sex, as well as hormonal changes during a women's cycle and allergies to certain foods and substances.

Most common cause types:

  • Bacterial infection with the gonococcus bacteria, which is acquired during sexual activity. This form of the illness is called gonococcal urethritis.

Less common cause types:

Infection of the urethra with other organisms, most of which are also acquired during oral, anal, or vaginal sex. This form of the illness is called non-gonococcal urethritis or nonspecific urethritis.

  • Chlamydia trachomatis, which is often found concurrently with gonococcal urethritis.
  • Trichomonas vaginalis, which is a tiny parasite transmitted through sexual activity.
  • Herpes simplex, which is caused by a virus and is also a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Yeast infection, which can spread from the vagina to the urethra.
  • E. coli, which is found in feces and can easily spread from the rectum to the urethra.

Least common cause types:

  • Irritants to the outside of the urethra:
  • Hormonal changes due to the normal variation in a woman's estrogen cycles each month. At some points, the lining of the urethra is thinner and therefore more susceptible to irritation and/or infection.
  • Use of a urinary catheter, which may cause irritation or injury to the urethra and therefore allow bacteria to get through the mucus membranes.
  • Urethral diverticula are bulging pouches, or pockets, that form along the outside of the urethra. These pouches become filled with urine but do not drain properly, sometimes allowing bacteria to grow and causing symptoms of urethritis.

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Chlamydia infection

Chlamydia trachomatis is a type of bacteria best known for causing the sexually transmitted infection known simply as chlamydia. It is among the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), with more than a million cases reported each year in the U.S. alone.

However, the sy...

(Video) Urethritis: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention & its Management - Dr. Sheela B S

Disseminated gonococcal infection

Disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI) is an infection from a sexually transmitted bacteria known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It spreads to distant parts of the body beyond the original portal of entry and usually manifest by rash and arthritis.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, joint pain, fever, chills, moderate fever

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Normal case of vaginal discharge

It is perfectly normal for every woman to have a clear or thin white vaginal discharge which is more or less constant.

The body protects the vaginal tissues by producing this light mucus from glands in the cervix and in the vaginal walls. This keeps the tissues lubricated so that they do not dry out and become irritated, and keeps the tissues slightly acidic because that helps to kill off any harmful germs.

The discharge is also a cleaning mechanism, clearing away any dead cells or bacteria as it moves out of the vagina. Douching is not necessary for normal discharge.

Vaginal discharge may change at different stages of life. During pregnancy, it becomes white and milky in appearance.

During and after menopause, the discharge lessens due to the drop in estrogen levels. If the dryness causes irritation or difficulty with sexual activity, a gynecologist can recommend an appropriate remedy.

Normal vaginal discharge never causes itching or has a foul smell, and is never any color other than clear or white.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: vaginal discharge, mild vaginal discharge, white/gray vaginal discharge, clear vaginal discharge, severe vaginal discharge

Symptoms that always occur with normal case of vaginal discharge: vaginal discharge

Symptoms that never occur with normal case of vaginal discharge: vaginal itch or burning, painful urination, severe vaginal discharge, vaginal pain, abdominal pain (stomach ache), bleeding after sex, missed period, vulvovaginal odor

(Video) Urethritis: Definition & Pathology – Infectious Diseases | Lecturio

Urgency: Wait and watch

Symptoms of menopause

Menopause is the name for the natural process by which the menstrual cycle (period) stops happening in a woman. Usually, the process is gradual (takes months or years) and occurs from the age of 45 to 55 years. Menopause is officially diagnosed once a woman stops having a period for 12 months continuously. A woman with menopause will notice a decrease in the number and regularity of her periods until they completely stop. In addition, she may notice a number of symptoms that occur as a result of decreased estrogen levels, such as hot flashes, changes in mood, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, changes in libido, and changes in sexual function. Certain medications exist that can decrease these symptoms.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, delay in or irregular periods, vaginal discharge, anxiety, trouble sleeping

Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause: delay in or irregular periods

Urgency: Self-treatment

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, is the general term for a bacterial infection of a woman's reproductive organs.

PID is most often a complication of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. However, it is possible to get PID from other causes.

Any woman can be affected. It is most often found in sexually active women under age 25, especially those who have had PID before, have multiple partners, and/or douche frequently.

Symptoms include fever, lower abdominal pain, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, pain and/or bleeding during sex, and pain on urination.

Untreated PID can cause infertility due to damaged tissue in the reproductive tract, as well as chronic pelvic and abdominal pain. Unprotected sex partners will be infected as well.

Diagnosis is made through symptoms, pelvic examination, vaginal and cervical swabs, and urine tests.

Treatment is with a course of antibiotics. Be sure to finish all of the medication as directed, even when you begin feeling better.

To prevent PID, have all partners (male or female) tested for STDs and avoid unprotected sexual contact.

(Video) Bladder infection - Causes and treatment

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fever, abdominal pain or unusual vaginal discharge, vaginal discharge, nausea or vomiting, vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain

Symptoms that always occur with pelvic inflammatory disease: fever, abdominal pain or unusual vaginal discharge

Urgency: In-person visit

Atrophic vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis is a common condition that may affect up to 47% of postmenopausal women. It occurs due to low levels of estrogen which can be caused by menopause, medical treatments, and hormonal conditions, among other things.

Symptoms of atrophic vaginitis include vaginal dry...

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is an inflammation of the vagina due to overgrowth of the bacteria which are normally present.

It is not considered an STD (sexually transmitted disease) but nearly all cases are found in women after unprotected sexual contact, especially with multiple partners. Frequent douching is also a factor.

Male partners do not carry this condition, but it can spread between female partners.

Common symptoms include an itchy, foul-smelling discharge that may look grayish or greenish, as well as burning during urination. However, some women have no symptoms.

The greatest risks of bacterial vaginosis are secondary. The symptoms can be similar to actual STDs and so should not be ignored. This condition makes a woman more vulnerable to actual STDs, as well as to pelvic inflammatory disease and to infections following any gynecologic surgery.

Pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis are at risk for premature or low-birth-weight babies.

Diagnosis is made through symptoms, and/or pelvic exam and vaginal swab.

Treatment consists of oral medication, and sometimes a cream or gel that is inserted into the vagina.

(Video) Syphilis; Urethritis and Cervicitis

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: vaginal itch or burning, vulvovaginal odor, bloody vaginal discharge, white/gray vaginal discharge, thick vaginal discharge

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Yeast infection

Yeast infections are due to alterations in the balance of microscopic organisms in the vulvar and vaginal regions. The term "yeast infection" is most commonly used to describe symptoms caused by the fungus Candida albicans.

Symptoms include itching of the vaginal and vulva, burning, redness...

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So... which condition is actually causing your female urethral discharge?

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Questions your doctor may ask about female urethral discharge

  • Are you sexually active?
  • Do you feel pain when you urinate?
  • When was your last menstrual period?
  • What color is the discharge?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

(Video) Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Signs & Symptoms (& Why They Occur)

FAQs

What causes discharge in urethritis? ›

Bacteria, including those that are sexually transmitted, are the most common cause of urethritis. Symptoms include pain while urinating, a frequent or urgent need to urinate, and sometimes a discharge. Antibiotics are usually given to treat the infection.

Is urethritis common in females? ›

Urethritis affects people of all ages. Both males and females can develop the condition. However, females have a greater chance of developing the condition than males.

Why is urethritis more common in females? ›

Menopausal females with insufficient estrogen levels may develop urethritis due to the tissues of the urethra and bladder becoming thinner and dryer, causing irritation. This is a very common cause of urethritis in older women.

Can urethritis spread to woman? ›

However, the infections that cause NGU in men can spread to other parts of the female reproductive system – for example, the womb or fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the womb. If the infection does spread, a woman may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

What causes discharge in a woman? ›

The most common causes of vaginal discharge include: A vaginal infection (yeast or bacterial infection, trichomonas). The body's reaction to a foreign body (such as a forgotten tampon or condom) or substance (such as spermicide, soap).

What is discharge for a female? ›

Vaginal discharge is fluid that comes from the vagina. You might see this on the toilet paper when you wipe, or in your underwear. Normal vaginal discharge has several purposes: cleaning and moistening the vagina, and helping to prevent and fight infections.

Is discharge from urethra normal female? ›

Female urethral discharge is usually the first sign of an infection known as urethritis. The causes of white particles in urine, or mucus in urine, is known as gonococcal urethritis, which can also cause pain and burning in the urethra. Read below for more related symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

What color is urethritis discharge? ›

Symptoms of Urethritis

The discharge is often yellowish green and thick when the gonococcal organism is involved and may be clear and thinner when other organisms are involved. In women, discharge is less common. and vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina).

How long can urethritis last? ›

It may sometimes take 2 or 3 weeks for your symptoms to disappear completely.

What are the three most common causes of urethritis? ›

Urethritis is swelling and irritation or inflammation of the urethra. Urethritis is most commonly caused by bacteria or a virus, but can also result from physical injury or sensitivity to some chemicals in spermicides and contraceptive foams and jellies.

Why is my urethra itchy female? ›

An itchy urethra in females is a symptom from an inflamed urethra. This condition is usually caused by urethritis or a yeast infection. Women who have an irritated urethra may also be experiencing burning when peeing, or itching around the vaginal area.

Can urethritis cause bleeding? ›

Urethritis at a glance

Those with urethritis may experience painful urination, painful intercourse and blood in the urine or semen.

When do urethritis symptoms start? ›

How soon do symptoms appear? The symptoms associated with NGU usually appear from one to five weeks after infection. Some people never develop obvious symptoms throughout their infection.

How do you treat urethritis? ›

Antibiotics can successfully cure urethritis caused by bacteria. Many different antibiotics can treat urethritis.
...
Some of the most commonly prescribed include:
  1. Adoxa, doxycycline (Vibramycin), Monodox, Oracea.
  2. Azithromycin (Zmax), Zithromax.
  3. Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
26 Jan 2022

How is urethral discharge treated? ›

The combination of azithromycin (Zithromax) or doxycycline plus ceftriaxone (Rocephin) or cefixime (Suprax) is recommended as empiric treatment for urethritis. Treatment of urethritis may reduce the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus.

What are the 5 types of discharge? ›

What Do Different Types of Discharge Mean?
  • Thin and clear. "Clear or watery discharge is normal," says Dr. ...
  • Stringy or stretchy. ...
  • Thicker than usual. ...
  • Super heavy. ...
  • Brown or bloody. ...
  • White and clumpy. ...
  • Yellow or green. ...
  • Grayish.
12 Sept 2018

What are the effects of white discharge in females? ›

If your vaginal discharge increases, changes color or odor, or is suddenly itchy or irritated, see your doctor. You may have a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or trichomoniasis. Your doctor will need to examine you to make a diagnosis. The exam will include questions about your symptoms.

What age does a girl get discharge? ›

About 6 months to 1 year before a girl gets her first period, her body may start to make vaginal discharge. This is normal and due to changing hormone levels. The discharge helps keep the vagina healthy. Normal vaginal discharge can have a texture that's anywhere from thin and slightly sticky to thick and gooey.

How long does discharge last? ›

How long will I have egg white cervical mucus? The egg white discharge lasts about four days. If your cycle is 28 days, the fertile cervical mucus occurs around days 10 to 14.

How much discharge is normal? ›

A normal amount of vaginal discharge in a 24-hour period ranges from 1-4 milliliters. This is just under a teaspoon at the most. You may notice more discharge before or during ovulation. Otherwise, consistently seeing a lot more discharge is considered excessive and you should investigate it further.

What color discharge is normal? ›

Normal vaginal discharge is milky or white and is odorless. But sometimes, an imbalance of bacteria in your vagina can cause your discharge to change color.

What is a urethral discharge? ›

Urethral discharge is characterized by abnormal purulent or mucoid secretions from the penis or, rarely, the female urethra. Urethral discharge reflects inflammation of the urethra usually caused by infection. Urethritis is defined as the presence of leukorrhea and urethral inflammation.

Where is the urethra located on a woman? ›

The urethral opening is the tiny hole that you pee out of, located just below your clitoris. The vaginal opening is right below your urethral opening. It's where menstrual blood leaves your body, and babies are born.

Does urethritis show in urine test? ›

Urinalysis is not a useful test in patients with urethritis, except for helping exclude cystitis or pyelonephritis, which may be necessary in cases of dysuria without discharge. Patients with gonococcal urethritis may have leukocytes in a first-void urine specimen and fewer or none in a midstream specimen.

How do you get urethral discharge? ›

To collect the sample, a cotton swab is then gently inserted about three-fourths inch (2 centimeters) into the urethra and turned. To get a good sample, the test should be done at least 2 hours after urinating. The sample is sent to a lab. There, it is placed in a special dish (culture).

Can urethritis cause back pain? ›

Simple urethritis does not cause fever or severe illness. If the disease spreads to other organs in the genital or urinary tract or into the bloodstream, however, it may result in the following: Back pain.

How common is urethritis? ›

About three million of these cases aren't caused by gonorrhea (NGU). Globally, there are about 62 million new cases per year of urethritis caused by gonorrhea and about 89 million cases of NGU each year. These numbers may be low because it's possible to have the condition without having symptoms.

Can urethritis be transmitted? ›

Urethritis is most often caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes simplex virus, and trichomonas. Urethritis can be passed through vaginal, oral, and anal sexual contact.

Can you cure urethritis without antibiotics? ›

Conventional treatment for urethritis usually involves a course of antibiotics. If they are ineffective, urethritis treatment without antibiotics may include antivirals, changes to hygiene or sexual practices, or over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medicines.

What type of bacteria causes urethritis? ›

Both bacteria and viruses may cause urethritis. Some of the bacteria that cause this condition include E coli, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. These bacteria also cause urinary tract infections and some sexually transmitted diseases. Viral causes are herpes simplex virus and cytomegalovirus.

What are the dangers of urethritis? ›

Left untreated, urethritis can lead to complications, such as bladder infections; narrowing and scarring of the urethra; infection and inflammation of the testicles, prostate, epididymis or cervix; pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, an infection of a woman's reproductive organs); and infertility.

How do you stop urethra pain? ›

The following home remedies may also help:
  1. drinking plenty of water.
  2. emptying the bladder frequently.
  3. consuming a healthful amount of vitamin C each day to increase urine acidity and prevent bacterial growth.
  4. avoiding spicy, acidic, and sugary foods, which can irritate the bladder.

How do you test for urethritis? ›

Diagnosing non-gonococcal urethritis
  1. a swab test – a sample of fluid is taken from your urethra using a swab, which is like a small cotton bud. ...
  2. a urine test – you'll be asked not to pee for at least 2 hours before providing a urine sample as this can help make the test results more reliable.

Can urethritis heal on its own? ›

Urethritis may clear up in a few weeks or months, even without treatment. But if you don't get treatment, the bacteria that cause the infection can stay in the urethra. Even if symptoms go away, you can still have the infection.

Can urethritis be cured naturally? ›

Does urethritis go away on its own? While urethritis can go away on its own, the risk of the infection getting worse and spreading to the kidneys is high. Urethritis caused by bacteria typically requires antibiotics to clear the infection and prevent recurring UTI infections.

Can urethritis cause abdominal pain? ›

In both sexes, urethral syndrome can cause: lower abdominal pain.

Can urethritis be caused by stress? ›

Tiny organisms called mycoplasma genitalium and ureaplasma urealyticum can live in the body without causing symptoms but sometimes they multiply quickly, leading to inflammation of the urethra. Being ill or stressed could cause this to happen.

Can amoxicillin treat urethritis in females? ›

As many women (and men) know, the typical treatment for a urinary tract infection (UTI) is an antibiotic. The best antibiotic to take depends on which bacteria is causing the infection; however, amoxicillin is a common treatment.

What color is urethritis discharge? ›

Symptoms of Urethritis

The discharge is often yellowish green and thick when the gonococcal organism is involved and may be clear and thinner when other organisms are involved. In women, discharge is less common. and vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina).

How do you get urethral discharge? ›

To collect the sample, a cotton swab is then gently inserted about three-fourths inch (2 centimeters) into the urethra and turned. To get a good sample, the test should be done at least 2 hours after urinating. The sample is sent to a lab. There, it is placed in a special dish (culture).

How do you treat urethral discharge? ›

The combination of azithromycin (Zithromax) or doxycycline plus ceftriaxone (Rocephin) or cefixime (Suprax) is recommended as empiric treatment for urethritis. Treatment of urethritis may reduce the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus.

How do you get rid of urethral discharge? ›

Antibiotics can successfully cure urethritis caused by bacteria. Many different antibiotics can treat urethritis.
...
Some of the most commonly prescribed include:
  1. Adoxa, doxycycline (Vibramycin), Monodox, Oracea.
  2. Azithromycin (Zmax), Zithromax.
  3. Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
26 Jan 2022

How long can urethritis last? ›

It may sometimes take 2 or 3 weeks for your symptoms to disappear completely.

When do urethritis symptoms start? ›

How soon do symptoms appear? The symptoms associated with NGU usually appear from one to five weeks after infection. Some people never develop obvious symptoms throughout their infection.

What antibiotics treat urethritis? ›

Many different antibiotics can treat urethritis, but some of the most commonly prescribed include: Doxycycline (Adoxa, Monodox, Oracea, Vibramycin) Ceftriaxone (Rocephin) Azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax)

Is urethral discharge normal female? ›

Female urethral discharge is usually the first sign of an infection known as urethritis. The causes of white particles in urine, or mucus in urine, is known as gonococcal urethritis, which can also cause pain and burning in the urethra. Read below for more related symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

Can urethritis be cured? ›

If you have urethritis and you're treated with the correct medication, you should be cured entirely. It's important to note that your sexual partners must also take the medication. If only one of you is treated, you can continue to pass the infection back and forth.

What bacteria causes urethral discharge? ›

Urethral discharge among men is commonly caused by N. gonorrhoeae and/or C. trachomatis and/or non-gonococcal and non-chlamydial pathogens, such as M. genitalium and T.

Does urethritis show in urine test? ›

Urinalysis is not a useful test in patients with urethritis, except for helping exclude cystitis or pyelonephritis, which may be necessary in cases of dysuria without discharge. Patients with gonococcal urethritis may have leukocytes in a first-void urine specimen and fewer or none in a midstream specimen.

How do you treat urethritis without antibiotics? ›

Are There Home Remedies for Urethritis?
  1. Drink fluids to dilute your urine. ...
  2. You may take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen) and acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) for pain control.
  3. Sitz baths can help with the burning associated with chemical irritant urethritis.

What are the dangers of urethritis? ›

Left untreated, urethritis can lead to complications, such as bladder infections; narrowing and scarring of the urethra; infection and inflammation of the testicles, prostate, epididymis or cervix; pelvic inflammatory disease (PID, an infection of a woman's reproductive organs); and infertility.

Can urethritis be transmitted? ›

Urethritis is most often caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes simplex virus, and trichomonas. Urethritis can be passed through vaginal, oral, and anal sexual contact.

Is urethritis a STD? ›

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

If urethritis is caused by gonorrhoea, it is known as gonococcal urethritis. NGU can also be caused by other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia. Chlamydia is spread during unprotected sex (sex without a condom), including anal and oral sex.

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