Penile Discharge

Reviewed by Ruthann Cunningham, MD, July 21, 2017

Penile discharge is the result of inflammation of the urethra (the tube that carries urine and ejaculate through the penis). This may result in a condition called urethritis.

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Urethritis can be caused by several different types of viruses, bacteria, and yeast that invade the urethra.

Discharge from the penis can range in consistency from thin and watery to thick and viscous, and can be clear, white, yellow, bloody, or a range of colors in between. It can also vary in amount from barely noticeable to very pronounced. Discharge can be accompanied by an odor, or it can be odorless. The most common culprits of penile discharge are chlamydia, gonorrhea, ureaplasma, mycoplasma and trichomoniasis—all of which can cause similar symptoms.

Discharge from the penis is not a "normal" occurrence in men; however, just because you're experiencing discharge doesn't mean you necessarily have an STD. There are many different organisms that can be introduced into the urethra and cause infection that are not classified as sexually transmitted diseases. The only way to know why you're experiencing penile discharge is to undergo testing, which will determine the cause and how you can treat it.

STDs and penile discharge

Two STDs that are frequently associated with discharge from the penis are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Penile discharge may be the only symptom present, but in some cases additional symptoms such as pain with urination and testicular swelling may be present as well. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are both very common among men, so it is important to be tested if you have been sexually active and are experiencing any unusual symptoms. In addition, both chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause long-term health problems for men and women who are infected, so it's important not to ignore any possible symptoms and get treatment if you are infected. Fortunately, chlamydia and gonorrhea are both easily cured with antibiotics.

Other causes of penile discharge

Other causes of penile discharge are ureaplasma, mycoplasma and trichomoniasis. These infections are less common, but their detection remains important to avoid any complications that may be caused by untreated infections. Like chlamydia and gonorrhea, these conditions can all be treated with antibiotics.

Whether or not you're experiencing penile discharge, if you're sexually active and have never been tested for STDs, you should undergo comprehensive STD testing. As is true for most STDs, a large number of men with these infections won't experience any symptoms, so routine testing when you're sexually active is very important.

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