Urethral Syndrome, Urethritis and Interstitial Cystitis

Urethral syndrome and urethritis are generic terms that describe urethral and/or bladder symptoms in the absence of any infection. It was coined as early term for patients struggling with urinary frequency and urgency in the absence of infection and other abnormalities. However, that also fits the symptoms of interstitial cystitis, bladder pain syndrome and, in Japan, hypersensitive bladder syndrome. In other words, there is very little consensus about the use of the term “urethral syndrome” and it most likely is outdated. A January 2015 article in Medscape presents urethral syndrome as a milder form of bladder and urinary discomfort when compared with interstitial cystitis.

Urethral Syndrome Symptoms

  • Urinary Frequency – Patients may feel the need to urinate as often as twice an hour or more
  • Pain – The discomfort and pain associated with urethral syndrome is not as severe as interstitial and is not severe enough to disturb sleep
  • Dysuria – The bane of patients is dysuria, a constant chronic urethral irritation.
  • IBS like symptoms and painful sex that suggest pelvic floor involvement and dysfunction.
  • Irregular or painful menstruation suggestive of endometriosis or other gynecological disorders.

Urethral discomfort can occur in men and women and is generally linked to hormonal imbalances, inflammation of the scene’s glands, chemical sensitivity (i.e. bubble baths, soaps, spermicides, detergents, douches, etc.) and perhaps even traumatic sexual intercourse or rape. In men, urethral syndrome has also been associated with prolonged driving in vehicles with limited shock-absorbing mechanisms (i.e. buses & trucks), horseback riding, and long-distance biking.

Additional Reading

If your symptoms are not resolving within a reasonable period of time, please talk with your doctor! The AUA Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of IC strongly encourage patients to revisit their diagnosis if they are not responding to treatment. It’s time to ask your medical team what else could be contributing to your urethral discomfort!

Suggested Reading

 Terris M, et al. Urethral Syndrome. Medscape. January 21, 2015 – Accessed 4/22/15

Author – Jill Osborne, MA
Updated April 23, 2015