Diagnosing non-gonococcal urethritis 

Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU) is usually diagnosed after tests have been carried out at a specialist clinic.

If you think you have NGU, you should visit your local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual health clinic. These clinics have access to specialist diagnostic equipment that your GP may not have.

It's easy to find sexual health services in your area. Sexual health services are free and available to everyone regardless of age, sex, ethnic origin and sexual orientation.


Two tests can diagnose NGU  a swab test and a urine test. Either test can be used, although both may be carried out to ensure the diagnosis is correct.

It is recommended that you are also tested for gonorrhoea and chlamydia at the same time as NGU. These are two sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that often cause urethritis.

You may also be offered tests for other STIs, including HIV. It is up to you whether to have these or not, but a test for all infections is recommended. You can discuss this with healthcare professionals at the clinic if you wish.

Swab test

A swab test involves taking a small sample of fluid from your urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. The sample can then be examined under a microscope to look for evidence of inflammation or bacteria known to cause NGU.

The sample is taken using a swab, which is like a small cotton bud with a plastic loop at the end. The swab is not painful, but can feel a little uncomfortable for a few seconds.

Urine test

You will be asked to provide a urine sample, which will be tested for bacteria known to cause NGU, such as chlamydia.

You will be asked not to urinate for around two hours before providing a urine sample, because this can help make the test results more reliable.


Clinics that have microscope facilities will be able to give you some results the same day. Other clinics may need to send the samples to a laboratory for testing – in which case, the test results may not be available for a week or two.

Healthcare professionals at the clinic will tell you how and when you will get your test results, and they will also arrange your treatment.

Video: chlamydia test

A dramatisation of a teenage couple, Ben and Rosie, going for tests for STIs including chlamydia.

Media last reviewed:

Next review due:

What happens at a sexual health clinic?

  • You will be asked about your sexual history – for example, when you last had sex, whether you used condoms and whether you have had an STI before.
  • If you are attending the clinic for non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU), you will be offered tests for STIs. You do not have to have the tests, but it makes sense to have them. Tests can only be done with your consent.
  • Staff at the sexual health clinic will be able to advise you about the sexual partners who will need to be contacted, and may be able to contact them on your behalf. If you wish, your anonymity will be protected when contacting your previous sexual partners.

Read more about visiting a sexual health clinic.

Page last reviewed: 02/09/2014

Next review due: 02/09/2016