Prostate and urethral problems can affect the smooth flow of urine in men. This leaflet will give you a brief explanation of the different prostate and urethral conditions and how the urine system can be affected.
Conditions affecting the prostate
There are a number of different conditions that can affect the prostate gland, including:
The urethra - the tube that urine flows out of from your bladder - can sometimes become narrowed. See the separate leaflet called Urethral Stricture for more details.
Other causes of urethral pain
Urinary tract infection
One of the most common causes of urethral pain is urinary tract infection. It is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as a frequent and urgent need to pass urine.
This is inflammation of the urethra. It's usually due to an infection which has been acquired sexually, most commonly gonococcus. Again, other symptoms often accompany urethral pain, such as a discharge from the penis or pain passing urine.
The most common type of injury to the urethra is by the insertion of a tube to drain the bladder (a catheter). You may require this procedure if you develop urinary retention, usually as a result of swelling of the prostate.
Bleeding from the urethra
Urethral bleeding may have a number of different causes.
- Infection is a common cause - either in connection with a urinary tract infection or associated with urethritis. It often presents as blood in the urine (haematuria) rather than blood oozing from the urethra.
- Trauma - injury from a catheter can cause bleeding as well as pain.
- Cancer - urethral cancer is very rare in men. Cancer of the bladder or kidney is more common. You may notice bleeding from the urethra, or blood in the urine. Treatment of urethral cancer is usually surgical. It may be necessary to remove the penis entirely, although in some cases it can be preserved.
Further reading and references
Guidelines on Prostate Cancer; European Association of Urologists (2018)
Guidelines on the Management of Non-Neurogenic Male Lower Urinary Tract symptoms (LUTS), incl. Benign Prostatic Obstruction (BPO); European Association of Urology (2015)
Lee YJ, Kim SW; Current management of urethral stricture. Korean J Urol. 2013 Sep54(9):561-9. doi: 10.4111/kju.2013.54.9.561. Epub 2013 Sep 10.
Urethritis - male; NICE CKS, July 2015 (UK access only)