What do the different names mean?
NSU stands for non-specific urethritis. It is also called non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) and non-specific genital infection (NSGI). All the different names mean the same thing. In about half of the cases of NSU/NGU, the infection is caused by a bacteria called chlamydia. If you are confused already – don’t worry, read on and everything will become clear.
What is it?
NSU/NGU is a common sexually-transmitted infection. Both men and women can get it but only males can be tested for it (due to anatomical reasons). However, female partners also need treated for it. It can only be diagnosed at a Integrated Sexual Health Clinic (formerly Genito-urinary GUM) because a microscope is needed to make the diagnosis.
The symptoms are the same as those for chlamydia.
Women may get any of the following symptoms:
- An unusual vaginal discharge
- Pain or discomfort when passing urine
- Lower tummy pain
- Pain during sex.
Men may get any of the following symptoms
- Pain when passing urine
- A discharge or fluid from the end of the penis. This is often clear or whitish but can also be grey or yellow
- Pain or swelling in the testicles.
Symptoms may develop within a few weeks of getting the infection but many people who have chlamydia or NSU have no symptoms.
What should I do?
If you or your partner are concerned that you may have an infection you should see a doctor. You can go to your own doctor but it may be better to go to a Integrated Sexual Health Clinic (formerly Genito-urinary GUM). There is a list of local clinics in the sexual health services section of this website. Anyone can go to a Integrated Sexual Health Clinic (formerly Genito-urinary GUM) – you don’t have to see your family doctor first.
You can be sure that the service you get will be free, confidential and welcoming. You should not pass urine for at least two hours before you go to the clinic. This is because when you pass urine you wash away some of the germs and make it harder for us to find the cause of the problem. Often you can get the result of the test the same day, but it can take up to a week for all the results to come back.
How will I be tested?
Samples are taken from the genital area. To make sure you haven’t got any other infections, you should think about having a full check-up. For men the test involves putting a small cotton wool swab or loop into the opening of the penis. For women the procedure involves taking samples from the cervix and vagina. It is very similar to having a cervical smear.
How is Chlamydia or NSU treated?
Antibiotics usually cure the problem if you are treated early. It is very important to follow instructions carefully and not have sex again until both you and your partner are cured. However, there is still a risk that you will get infected again. Sometimes the clinic will suggest you take antibiotics even if your tests are negative. This is because sometimes the test is not 100% reliable and you could still be infected.
Look after yourself and your partner
It is very important to have a full check-up before you start having sex again. You may need more antibiotics to be cured, even if your symptoms have improved.
Why is it important to get treatment?
If you don’t get treatment, it is unlikely that the infection will go away and you could pass it on to your partner. In women, an untreated infection can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Sometimes there may be no symptoms from this, but you may get an unusual vaginal discharge, a temperature, tummy pain, backache and pain during sex. PID can cause infertility and ectopic pregnancy (where the baby grows inside the fallopian tube). If a baby is born to a mother with chlamydia, the baby may develop eye and lung problems. In men, an untreated infection can spread to the epididymis or testicles, causing pain, swelling and infertility.
How can Chlamydia and NSU be prevented?
The best way to stay free from sexually-transmitted infections is to practise safer sex and have regular sexual health MOTs. If you have any questions about your sexual health, contact a Integrated Sexual Health Clinic (formerly Genito-urinary GUM) or your family doctor or read the other sections in this website (available from NHS Lanarkshire).
Safer sex means protecting you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections. These are infections passed from one person to another during sex.
If you are having vaginal or anal sex, condoms can help make it safer and more fun. Condoms have really changed. You can get them in all different colours, shapes and flavours. Try different kinds of condom and see which ones suit you and your partner. More and more people are now finding that condoms are easy and sexy to use. You can also get female condoms. They are called femidoms and are a tube-shape made of very thin material which lines the vagina.