Diagnosing Non-Specific Urethritis

Non-Specific Urethritis Treatment

Non-specific urethritis is a condition which can be quite tricky to diagnosis, particularly where asymptomatic. A significant number of cases of urethritis will not present with the trademark symptoms, namely a distinctive burning sensation whilst urinating, and often a milky discharge from the end of male genitalia. Because of the potential for more severe and progressive infections that infiltrate into the reproductive tract, effectively diagnosing and treating non-specific urethritis and any causative infectious conditions is absolutely critical for long term health and well-being. In this article we look at how NSU can be diagnosed and the concerns that lie therein.

Getting diagnosed

The first step towards getting an accurate and reliable diagnosis is going to the right type of clinic. You can go to your family doctor or GP, or if you feel that this might be awkward or embarrassing, you can seek help and advice from your local sexual health or genitourinary medicine clinic. These are specialist facilities that will be able to offer you an appointment on the day. Staff at these clinics are well-versed in the medical and personal aspects of both NSU and the sexually transmitted infections which often cause the condition, and will therefore be able to offer you the discretion and confidentiality you might be looking for.

Sexual health clinics also have the benefit of housing certain pieces of equipment which may not be available to your family doctor. These bits of kit can allow for faster and more accurate diagnoses when used, and can be an invaluable asset in getting the treatment you want and need.

As mentioned briefly in the introduction to this article, NSU can often be asymptomatic. Most of the time patients going for testing for this particular condition will be symptomatic, however if you have recently had unprotected sexual intercourse with a partner who has been diagnosed with a case of NSU or a condition that can potentially cause NSU like chlamydia, it is advisable that you get tested yourself.

Diagnosing NSU begins, as in most medical situations, with a patient history which establishes any symptoms you may have experienced and any sexual contact you may have had that could potentially cause the condition. Based on this discussion, the next step is to pursue testing.

Two tests are broadly used to detect non-specific urethritis, and either of these can be applied to detect the condition. In many cases, both tests are used to reach a concrete conclusion and correct diagnosis.

The first is the swab test, which is based on getting a small sample of fluid from the structure affected by NSU, the urethra. Your urethra is a biological tube which runs from your bladder and through your genitals and allows you to urinate. Because of its anatomical position, the urethra is often exposed to infectious agents during sex, resulting in urethritis alongside the transmission of the STI. By studying a sample from the urethra under a microscope, the pathogens causing the condition can be detected.

Swabbing may sound unpleasant, but is actually a fairly straightforward technique. A swab is a specially constructed and designed cotton bud with a small loop on one end. The nurse or doctor performing the test will be well trained in using the swab to get a sample with a minimum of discomfort.

The second technique is based on a similar principle and is the widely known urine test. As the name suggests, a urine test involves examining a urine sample taken from a patient suspected of suffering from an infection. Urine passes through the urethra on its way out of the body, and in doing so, it can carry bacteria infecting the urethra, and these pathogens can then be detected through testing.

All you need to do for a urine test is to urinate into a cup, and this sample will then be studied for signs of infection. Your doctor may ask you to avoid urinating for about 2 hours prior to providing your sample, as this can make the test more reliable.

Tests for urethritis will often be accompanied by tests for sexually transmitted infections which often cause urethritis. These include conditions like chlamydia and herpes. Gonorrhoea is sometimes tested for, but the urethritis caused by gonococcal bacteria is referred to as gonococcal urethritis as opposed to non-specific.

You can obtain results from these tests within the same day if you have gone to a clinic or other facility which has at microscope facilities at its disposal. Clinics which do not have such testing facilities will need to send samples to a lab which can perform the appropriate tests, and in these instances it can take between 1-2 weeks for you to get your results.

The doctor or nurse tending to you will give you more information on how you can get your test results and what they might mean. In some cases you may need to come back in for further testing if your NSU has not cleared up, if further symptoms have developed, or if treatment does not resolve your symptoms.

Remember that if you think you may have NSU it is always better to err on the side of caution and have the condition investigated and treated if necessary. If left unchecked, NSU or its underlying infection can result in more complex conditions like PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) in women and epididymo-orchitis in men. These are conditions which can potentially lead to infertility.

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