Nongonococcal Urethritis

Nongonococcal urethritis, also known as NGU and nonspecific urethritis (NSU), is an infection that can be transmitted through sexual intercourse. There are several other types of bacteria that have been found to cause NGU but the bacteria most often found to be the cause of NGU is the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium. The infection affects the urethra which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. This condition most often affects men between the ages of 15 and 30, and is considered one of the most common STDs in the United States. Women are less likely to be affected by this condition because the female urethra is not easily infected during sexual intercourse.

Causes of NGU

NGU can be contracted as a result of the following:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Inflamed prostate
  • Herpes simplex
  • Urethral stricture
  • Catheterization of the penis

Pregnant women may pass this infection to their child during birth, which may lead to infections within the eyes, ears or lungs. Fortunately, most cases of NGU can be successfully treated with no major complications and no long-term damage.

Symptoms of NGU

Symptoms of NGU often develop one to three weeks after infection. Some of the symptoms that appear are as follows:

For Men:

  • A discharge from the penis
  • Itching
  • Burning during urination
  • Stained underwear
  • Pain in the testicles

For Women:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Burning during urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

Diagnosis of NGU

The diagnosis of NGU is usually made along with the diagnosis of urethritis. Tests will be performed such as:

  • A fluid sample
  • STD test for gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV
  • Urinalysis

If a patient tests negative for gonorrhea or chlamydia with relevant symptoms, a diagnosis of NGU will likely be made. Being tested for other STDs, including HIV, is often recommended to detect any infection as early as possible so that proper treatment can begin.

Complications of NGU

Left untreated, NGU may continue to spread through the body leading to serious complications. Some of them are:

For Men:

  • Epididymitis
  • Reiter's syndrome
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Skin Lesions
  • Discharge

For Women:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Infertility
  • Pelvic pain
  • Urethritis
  • Vaginitis
  • Miscarriage

Treatment of NGU

NGU is most often treated with the same medication used to treat chlamydia. This may include:

  • Erythromycin
  • Doxycycline
  • Azithromycin

Most cases of NGU can be successfully cured with antibiotics. A urine test may be performed at the end of treatment to ensure that the infection is fully cleared. Patients and their partner should be treated at the same time for NGU to ensure that re-infection does not occur. Abstain from sexual intercourse until treatment is completed, even if symptoms disappear.

Prevention of NGU

Patients can prevent NGU and other STDs by the following:

  • Abstaining from sex
  • Using a latex condom
  • Maintaining open and honest communication with their partner
  • Being in a faithful, monogamous relationship with their partner

Regular testing can also help detect NGU and other infections in their earliest stages to ensure the most effective and plentiful treatment options.

Additional Resources