What is included in the physical exam of male patients with suspected urethritis?

Updated: Dec 12, 2018
  • Author: Martha K Terris, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS  more...
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Most patients with urethritis do not appear ill and do not present with signs of sepsis, such as fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, or hypotension. The primary focus of the examination is on the genitalia.


The best plan is to avoid examining the patient immediately after micturition because urination temporarily washes away discharge and potentially culturable organisms. Because urine culture is an important component of the evaluation, advise the patient to urinate approximately 2 hours before the examination so that culture and examination results are optimal and the patient can comfortably provide a urine specimen after the examination.

Ensure that the patient is standing, is completely undressed, and that the room is warm and has good lighting. When the patient is undressed, inspecting the underwear for secretions may yield additional information.

Examine the patient for skin lesions that may indicate other STDs, such as condyloma acuminatum, herpes simplex, or syphilis. The examiner must retract the foreskin of uncircumcised men, as lesions and exudate may be hiding beneath.

Examine the lumen of the distal urethral meatus for lesions, stricture, or obvious urethral discharge.

Strip the urethra by gently milking from the base of the penis to the glans. Any discharge may then be seen exuding from the urethral meatus. Palpate along the urethra for areas of fluctuance, tenderness, or warmth suggestive of abscess or for firmness suggestive of foreign body.

Examine the testes for evidence of mass or inflammation. Palpate the spermatic cord, looking for swelling, tenderness, or warmth suggestive of orchitis or epididymitis.

Check for inguinal adenopathy.

Palpate the prostate for tenderness or bogginess suggestive of prostatitis. During the digital rectal examination, note any lesions around the anus.

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