Nongonococcal urethritis (NGU)

Originally Published: May 11, 2007
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Dear Alice,

What is NGU (nongonococcal urethritis) and how can it be treated if possibly at home?

Dear Reader,

Nongonococcal urethritis (NGU) is an infection or irritation of the urethra caused by something other than gonorrhea. The urethra is the spaghetti-shaped tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside of your body. Most often NGU is caused by chlamydia, but NGU can also be caused by other bacteria or viruses, or by procedures such as catheterization. Most NGU results from sexual contact with an infected partner, but it can occur from other causes, like urinary tract infections.

Symptoms include discharge from the penis or vagina and burning or pain during urination. Due to their anatomy, men are more likely to be diagnosed with NGU and may experience itching, irritation or tenderness. When NGU occurs in women, they may experience abdominal pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding. It is important to note that most infected people (up to 90% by one estimate) are asymptomatic.

NGU can only be diagnosed by a medical provider using lab tests, and treatment usually involves antibiotics. Because antibiotics can't be obtained without a prescription, consultation with a medical provider is needed. NGU symptoms can resolve spontaneously over time, however treatment is recommended to prevent transmission and complications. If left untreated, NGU can lead to severe infections in the reproductive systems of men and women, infertility, or systemic problems like arthritis (in men) or spontaneous abortion (in women). Partners of sexually active people need to be treated as well, even if they don't have symptoms.

Using those lovely latex barriers during sex is the surest way to prevent nongonococcal urethritis and keep you peeing in peace.