Nongonococcal Urethritis


What Is It?

​Nongonococcal urethritis (NGU) is a broad term describing used to describe an inflammation of the urethra. NGU is caused by the introduction of bacteria, not including gonorrhea. While NGU can be caused by several different microorganisms including Mycoplasma genitalium and adenovirus, the most common NGU-inducing pathogen is chlamydia.1

Who Is at Risk?

Both males and females are at risk for contracting NGU. While engaging in sexual intercourse, men experience urethral exposure to pathogens; however, females’ urethras rarely come into contact with germs during coitus. Since the infection is mostly transmitted through sexual contact, males are at a higher risk of contracting NGU.2

How Is It Transmitted?

The three most common ways of contracting NGU include unprotected oral, anal, and vaginal sex with an infected partner. Since pathogens can be exchanged between partners whether bodily fluids are shared or not, using protection, such as condoms, at all times during sexual contact is highly recommended. Aside from sexual transmission, NGU can develop from urinary tract infections, prostatitis, and possibly catheterization procedures (in which a narrow tube is inserted into the urethra). Additionally, NGU can be passed from mother to baby through pathogens in the birth canal during childbirth. The transmission of pathogens to the baby can result in conjunctivitis (eye infections), ear infections, and pneumonia in the newborn. Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) before giving birth can help ensure the safety of the child.3

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of NGU differ in males and females, and may not even appear until 1 to 5 weeks after the infection is transmitted. Symptoms often presented in males include the following:

  • White or clear discharge from the urethral opening
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Urge to urinate frequently
  • Genital itching or irritation
  • Dryness and flakiness on the head of the penis

Females are often asymptomatic (express no symptoms), making it difficult to determine whether or not a female is infected without getting regularly tested. When symptoms are present in women they include the following:

  • Unusual vaginal discharge (often green or yellow)
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Urge to urinate frequently
  • Abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, aside from menstrual bleeding (indication that the disease has progressed to pelvic inflammatory disease)

In both males and females, anal infections can result in itching in the rectal area and pain while defecating.

Oral infections are usually asymptomatic (express no symptoms), but they may occasionally result in a sore throat.2,3

How Is It Treated?

If you a urethral infection becomes a concern, please see a health care provider. A doctor may take chlamydia and gonorrhea cultures to test for urethritis. If urethritis is present but the gonorrhea culture is negative, the infection may be an NGU.4 After receiving the diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics. The most commonly prescribed antibiotics include azithromycin and doxycycline. It is important to finish the entire prescribed course of antibiotics course even if visible symptoms are no longer present. Abstain from intercourse until the infection subsides. If left untreated, NGU can cause further medical complications such as the following:

Seeing a doctor at the first sign of symptoms is an easy way to prevent further medical complications.3

How Can It be Prevented?

There are several preliminary measures that can be taken to avoid contracting NGU. Although the most effective method of prevention is to abstain from sexual contact, the following measures can also help prevent the contraction of NGU:

  • Get tested for STIs frequently
  • Use a latex condom during any kind of sexual contact
  • Avoid sexual contact if undergoing (or if a partner is undergoing) current treatment for STIs
  • Consult a doctor if any partners have been infected with NGU or STIs
  • Inform any partners after coming into contact with the infection
  • Try to limit the number of sexual partners
  • Communicate with a partner about getting tested before engaging in sexual activity

Safe sex techniques can help stop the spread of STIs such as NGU.5

Why Is Communication with a Partner Important?

When dealing with a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is important to openly communicate with sexual partners in order to prevent transmission. By informing partners of STIs, potential long term consequences may be avoided. For example, if a female contracts NGU which presents asymptomatically, she may fail to get the appropriate treatment and may eventually develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) because she was unaware that her partner was infected.  Disclosing STIs to sexual partners can protect against preventable physical damage and may help both partners avoid uncomfortable conversations in the future.2


  1. “Department of Health.” Nongonococcal Urethritis (NSU, NGU). N.p., Nov. 2006. Web. 26 Jan. 2017. 
  2. “NGU.” American Sexual Health Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2017. 
  3. “Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU).” Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU). Oregon Public Health, n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.
  4. “Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU) in Men.” Cleveland Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.
  5. “NGU (Non-Gonococcal Urethritis) – Symptoms, Treatment | STD NGU.” STD. FREEDOM Network, 19 Oct. 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.

Last Updated: 19 January 2017.