Urethral syndrome is characterised by a set of symptoms typically associated with lower urinary tract infection, such as painful urination (dysuria) and frequency. It is a diagnosis of exclusion, made when there is no significant presence of bacteriuria with a conventional pathogen ruling out urinary tract infection, and when cystoscopy shows no inflammation of the bladder, ruling out interstitial cystitis and cystitis cystica. In women, vaginitis should also be ruled out.
Signs indicative of urethral syndrome include a history of chronic recurrent urinary tract infections (UTI) in the absence of both conventional bacterial growth and pyuria (more than 5 white blood cells per high power field). Episodes are often related to sexual intercourse.
Some physicians believe that urethral syndrome may be due to a low grade infection of the Skene's glands on the sides and bottom of the urethra. The Skene's glands are embryologically related to the prostate gland in the male, thus urethral syndrome may share a comparable cause with chronic prostatitis.
In a small minority of cases of urethral syndrome, treatment with antibiotics is effective, which indicates that in some cases it may be caused by bacterial infection which does not show up in either urinalysis or urine culture. For chronic urethral syndrome, a long term, low-dose antibiotic treatment is given on a continuous basis or after intercourse each time if intercourse appears to trigger symptoms.
As low oestrogen may also be considered a source for urethral syndrome, hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptive pill (birth-control pills) containing oestrogen are also used to treat the symptoms of this condition in women.