What causes urethral discharge? 6 possible conditions
A urethral discharge culture is used to identify infections in the urethra or genital tract. It is a test designed specifically for men and male children. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder through your penis and outside the body.
Urethral discharge culture testing can also be referred to as a culture of urethral discharge, or a genital exudate culture.
Most often, your doctor will recommend a urethral discharge culture test if you have signs of a genital tract infection, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. These signs may include:
- painful urination
- increased urine frequency
- discharge from the urethra
- redness or swelling around the urethra
- swollen testicles
- a sore throat.
The goal of the test is to see if there are any bacteria or other microorganism present in the urethra. Since infections, such chlamydia, often present few or no symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends screening tests for anyone who has multiple sexual partners or does not always use a condom (Mayo Clinic, 2011).
To obtain a culture from the urethra, your doctor will insert a swab into it. The process is quick, but it may be uncomfortable or slightly painful.
To prepare, refrain from urinating at least one hour prior to the test. Urinating may wash away some of the germs that the test is designed to capture.
Your doctor (or a nurse) will perform the test in his or her office.
First, your doctor or nurse will clean the area at the tip of the penis, where the urethra is located. Then, he or she will insert a sterile cotton swab about three-quarters of an inch into the urethra. Once the swab is inserted, they will turn the swab to ensure that a large enough sample is gathered.
The sample is then sent to the laboratory where it is put into a culture. Laboratory technicians monitor the sample and check for any bacterial or other growth. The test results should be available to you in a few days.
A normal (negative) result means there was no growth in the culture and you do not have an infection.
An abnormal (positive) result means growth was detected in the culture, signaling an infection in the genital tract. Most commonly, this infection is gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Urethral discharge culture testing is a relatively simple procedure. However, some risks include:
- fainting (due to stimulation of the vagal nerve)
- American Association for Clinical Chemistry. (2009). Gonorrhea. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/gonorrhea/tab/test:
- Mayo Clinic. (2011). Chlamydia. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chlamydia/DS00173:
- National Institutes of Health. (2011). Chlamydia: MedlinePlus. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001345.htm:
- National Institutes of Health. (2011). Gonorrhea: MedlinePlus. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007267.htm:
- National Institutes of Health. (2011). Urethral discharge culture: MedlinePlus. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003750.htm:
See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.
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