Urethral syndrome is a condition that leads to urethra irritation. The cause isn’t known, but may include hormonal imbalances, urethra injury or STIs. Symptoms include frequent, painful and difficult urination. Treatments include medications and relaxation techniques. You may have urethral syndrome your entire life, but symptoms often decrease over time.
Urethral syndrome is a condition that causes irritation of your urethra. This is the tube connecting your bladder to the outside of your body. Your urethra carries urine (pee) and semen (sperm) away from your body.
Other names for urethral syndrome include:
Urethral syndrome symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. They may look the same as symptoms seen in urinary tract infections and urethritis. But unlike these conditions, viral and bacterial infections don’t cause urethral syndrome. Several factors can result in urethral syndrome, which can make it difficult for healthcare providers to identify the exact cause.
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People of any age, race or gender might have urethral syndrome. But people assigned female at birth (AFAB) have this condition more commonly than people assigned male at birth (AMAB), and it affects those ages 30 to 50 the most. Healthcare providers diagnose urethral syndrome most often in white women and white people AFAB.
Up to 25% of patients who see a healthcare provider with symptoms in their lower urinary tract may have urethral syndrome.
Bacterial or viral infections cause urethritis, including nongonococcal urethritis in men. But urethral syndrome doesn’t come from an infection. If an infection isn’t causing your symptoms, your provider may suspect urethral syndrome.
Researchers don’t know what causes urethral syndrome. But they do know that bacterial and viral infections don’t cause it.
They suspect that several factors may contribute to urethral syndrome, including:
An injury to the urethra can come from:
Several things may cause additional irritation to the urethra:
The symptoms of urethral syndrome may include:
In men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB), symptoms of urethral syndrome may also include:
A healthcare provider who specializes in urinary system problems (urologist) can help diagnose urethral syndrome. Your provider will first ask about your symptoms and do a physical examination. They will need to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as:
If your provider suspects urethral syndrome, they may take a urine (pee) sample. They will do a:
If you have blood in your urine, your provider may suggest tests including:
Your provider may also suggest other tests such as:
They may also suggest imaging studies such as:
Treatments for urethral syndrome focus on reducing your discomfort and the frequency of urination. Your provider may treat urethral syndrome with:
Lifestyle changes can help to reduce irritation of your urethra. These changes may include:
You can reduce your risk of urethral syndrome by:
Other conditions that may put you at higher risk of urethral syndrome include:
You may have urethral syndrome throughout your life. But symptoms may decrease over time, especially with proper treatment and lifestyle changes.
Urethral syndrome can affect your sense of well-being. Symptoms can cause anxiety, depression and stress. Talking to your provider or a therapist about your concerns can help provide symptom relief and prevent the discomfort from returning.
See your provider if your symptoms get worse. They will test you for other issues such as UTIs.
Also, see your provider if you don’t notice any results from your treatments after some time. They’ll be able to suggest other treatments that may help.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Urethral syndrome is a condition that causes irritation of your urethra. Healthcare providers don’t know the exact cause. The main symptoms of urethral syndrome include blood in your urine, difficulty urinating, frequent urination and painful urination. Providers first diagnose urethral syndrome by ruling out other conditions. Treatment focuses on medications to relieve discomfort as well as techniques to help you relax. Lifestyle changes can also help. Though urethral syndrome can be a lifelong condition, symptoms may decrease over time.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/13/2022.
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