Read below about female urethral discharge, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your female urethral discharge from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Female Urethral Discharge Symptoms

The urethra is the slender, muscular duct that drains urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. One of the first symptoms of infection or inflammation of the urethra will be a discharge. In women, the lining of the urethra changes in response to the hormones which control her monthly cycle. This provides some protection from serious disease but also leaves women susceptible to chronic, low-level bacterial invasion of the urethra. [5, 8]

It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether the discharge is coming from the urethra or the vagina or both. Inflammation of the urethra is also called urethritis or female urethral syndrome. [1, 11]

Characteristics: ### [1,12]

Who is most often affected by female urethral discharge symptoms?

  • Women who are sexually active, especially with multiple partners. [1]
  • Women at or near menopause, when estrogen levels decline and the lining of the urethra may become drier and thinner. [8]
  • Women who also have a vaginal infection often develop urethritis as well, and vice versa. [13]

Is female urethral discharge serious?

  • A mild case of urethritis can be easily treated by your medical provider, especially if caught early. [13]
  • Urethritis of any type can readily spread to the vagina. [13]
  • An infection in the urethra can spread upward to other organs such as the bladder or kidneys and may also reach the uterus and fallopian tubes. This can cause serious illness and sometimes leads to sterility. [13]

Female Urethral Discharge Causes Overview

Many conditions can have urethral discharge as a symptom. The most common are those involving bacteria transmitted during sex, as well as hormonal changes during a women's cycle and allergies to certain foods and substances. [1]

Most common cause types:

  • Bacterial infection with the gonococcus bacteria, which is acquired during sexual activity. This form of the illness is called gonococcal urethritis. [2]

Less common cause types:

Infection of the urethra with other organisms, most of which are also acquired during oral, anal, or vaginal sex. This form of the illness is called non-gonococcal urethritis or nonspecific urethritis. [3]

  • Chlamydia trachomatis, which is often found concurrently with gonococcal urethritis. [3]
  • Trichomonas vaginalis, which is a tiny parasite transmitted through sexual activity. [3]
  • Herpes simplex, which is caused by a virus and is also a sexually transmitted infection. [3]
  • Yeast infection, which can spread from the vagina to the urethra. [4]
  • E. coli, which is found in feces and can easily spread from the rectum to the urethra. [5]

Least common cause types:

  • Irritants to the outside of the urethra:

    • Rubbing from clothes that are too tight. [7]
    • Soaps, detergents, lotions, spermicides, etc. [5]
    • Vigorous or rough sexual activity. [3]
    • Poor hygiene. [6]
  • Hormonal changes due to the normal variation in a woman's estrogen cycles each month. At some points, the lining of the urethra is thinner and therefore more susceptible to irritation and/or infection. [8]
  • Use of a urinary catheter, which may cause irritation or injury to the urethra and therefore allow bacteria to get through the mucus membranes. [3]
  • Urethral diverticula are bulging pouches, or pockets, that form along the outside of the urethra. These pouches become filled with urine but do not drain properly, sometimes allowing bacteria to grow and causing symptoms of urethritis. [9]

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Female Urethral Discharge

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced female urethral discharge. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Chlamydia Infection

    Chlamydia is a common bacterial infection that is spread through unprotected sex. Each year, over 1 million Americans are diagnosed with this STD.

    The infection should clear in 1-7 days after treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, sudden urgency to urinate, bleeding after sex, frequent urination
    Symptoms that never occur with chlamydia infection:
    improving vaginal discharge
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Disseminated Gonococcal Infection

    Disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI) is an infection from a sexually transmitted bacteria known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It spreads to distant parts of the body beyond the original portal of entry and usually manifest by rash and arthritis.

    Several days to 2 weeks

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, joint pain, fever, chills, moderate fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Normal Case of Vaginal Discharge

    Vaginal discharge is a common issue many women experience and is likely nothing to worry about. Your vaginal discharge can change depending on your menstrual cycle. Recent initiation or a change in contraceptives can also cause a temporary change in discharge.

    A few days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal discharge, mild vaginal discharge, white/gray vaginal discharge, clear vaginal discharge, severe vaginal discharge
    Symptoms that always occur with normal case of vaginal discharge:
    vaginal discharge
    Symptoms that never occur with normal case of vaginal discharge:
    vaginal itch or burning, painful urination, severe vaginal discharge, vaginal pain, abdominal pain (stomach ache), bleeding after sex, missed period, vulvovaginal odor
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  4. 4.Symptoms of Menopause

    Menopause is the point in life where your period stops. This happens when the ovaries stop making hormones that keep your cycle going. The transition into menopause is called peri-menopause and can include symptoms like hot flashes, shortening of menstrual cycle and mood fluctuations.

    Hot flashes typically peak approximately 1 year after the final period and last 4-10 years. Most women stop having hot flashes 4 years after they start, but 10% of women may have hot flashes up to 12 years after their last period.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, delay in or irregular periods, vaginal discharge, anxiety, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause:
    delay in or irregular periods
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

    Female Urethral Discharge Checker

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  5. 5.Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

    Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female genital structures like the uterus, fallopian tube, ovary, and the surrounding abdominal wall. It is typically caused by N. Gonorrhoeae or C. Trachomatis.

    Prognosis after treatment within 3 days of symptom onset is great (88%-100%). Those that are hospitalized, older, or have had gynecological surgery have a worse time with this infection.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, abdominal pain or unusual vaginal discharge, vaginal discharge, nausea or vomiting, vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain
    Symptoms that always occur with pelvic inflammatory disease:
    fever, abdominal pain or unusual vaginal discharge
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  6. 6.Atrophic Vaginitis

    Atrophic vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina and surrounding structures. It is caused by decreased levels of estrogen which causes the endometrial and vaginal lining to thin and vaginal pH to increase, causing symptoms like dryness, burning, and itching.

    Treatment will effectively manage symptoms.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, delay in or irregular periods, vaginal itch or burning, signs of urinary tract inflammation
    Symptoms that always occur with atrophic vaginitis:
    delay in or irregular periods
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Bacterial Vaginosis

    Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection caused when too much of certain bacteria change the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. BV is not a sexually transmitted infection and is not caused by poor hygiene (in fact, excessive washing of the vagina may increase the risk). Its symptoms are usually mild, consisting primarily of a white-gray vaginal discharge that has a fishy smell.

    5-7 days antibiotic treatment. May resolve on its own.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal itch or burning, vulvovaginal odor, bloody vaginal discharge, white/gray vaginal discharge, thick vaginal discharge
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Yeast Infection

    Yeast infections are caused by a fungus called "Candida." Candida is the scientific name for yeast that lives almost everywhere, including in the human body. Typically, our immune system keeps it under control, but if you take antibiotics or gets sick, the fungus can multiply and cause an infection. In this case, it is happening in the vagina.

    50% of women have relapses within 2 months, and 9% have more than 4 episodes per year. For those, maintenance therapy is possible.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal itch or burning, white/gray vaginal discharge, thick vaginal discharge, vaginal pain, vulvovaginal redness
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Female Urethral Discharge Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • You have severe and intractable pain in the lower abdomen and/or urethral area, especially if accompanied by fever. [1]

Schedule an appointment for:

  • Symptoms of an infection which has spread into the urinary or reproductive tract. [1]

In addition to those listed above for urethritis, these symptoms include: ### [5,7,12,13]

Urethral discharge remedies that you can try at home:

  • Practice good hygiene, including wiping only from front to back after using the toilet and always wearing clean clothes. [10]
  • If you are prone to vaginal or urethral infections, it's best not to wear thong underwear. [10]
  • Always use condoms during sexual activity. [3, 10]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Female Urethral Discharge

  • Q.Are you sexually active?
  • Q.Do you feel pain when you urinate?
  • Q.When was your last menstrual period?
  • Q.What color is the discharge?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our female urethral discharge symptom checker to find out more.

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Female Urethral Discharge Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced female urethral discharge have also experienced:

    • 14% Vaginal Itch or Burning
    • 11% Painful Urination
    • 9% Female Urethral Itchiness
  • People who have experienced female urethral discharge had symptoms persist for:

    • 39% Less Than a Week
    • 26% Less Than a Day
    • 18% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced female urethral discharge were most often matched with:

    • 50% Chlamydia Infection
    • 50% Disseminated Gonococcal Infection
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Urethritis in Women. Fairview. Fairview Link.
  2. Non-Gonococcal Urethritis: Overview. NHS. Published June 1, 2017. NHS Link.
  3. Non-Gonococcal Urethritis: Causes. NHS. Published June 1, 2017. NHS Link.
  4. Achkar JM, Fries BC. Candida Infections of the Genitourinary Tract. Clinical Microbiology Review. 2010;23(2):253-273. CMR Link.
  5. Urethritis. BayCare. BayCare Link.
  6. Urethritis. Beaumont. Beaumont Link.
  7. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). SUNY Geneseo. Geneseo Link.
  8. Elia G, Bergman A. Estrogen Effects on the Urethra: Beneficial Effects in Women with Genuine Stress Incontinence. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. 1993;48(7):509-517. PubMed Link.
  9. What is Urethral Diverticulum? Urology Care Foundation. Urology Care Foundation Link.
  10. Vaginitis. The Permanente Medical Group: My Doctor Online. My Doctor Online Link.
  11. Acute Urethral Syndrome in Women. British Medical Journal. 1981;282(6257):3-5. PubMed Link.
  12. Non-Gonococcal Urethritis: Symptoms. NHS. Published June 1, 2017. NHS Link.
  13. Non-Gonococcal Urethritis (NGU). Illinois Department of Public Health. IDPH Link.