Penile discharge is one of the most common symptoms that indicate the presence of an infection of some kind. This can sometimes be sexually transmitted and sometimes not. The only way to find out is by testing the discharge and clinical assessment.
The main symptom of penile discharge is a fluid exiting from the tip of the penis (the urethra, the tube through which semen & urine travel), or from under the foreskin.
The symptoms of penile discharge are:
- Clear, white, yellow, or green fluid at the tip of the penis or under the foreskin
- Watery or thick discharge
- May be smelly or odourless
Depending on the cause, a penile discharge may be accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- Painful urination
- Burning sensation on urination
- Difficulty passing urine
- Increased urinary frequency
- Tenderness or soreness at the head of the penis
- Redness or swelling at the head of the penis
- Rash or itchy patches around the genitals
The main causes of penile discharge are:
- Balanitis – this is inflammation of the head of the penis (the glans), which will usually also be red & sore. It is caused by a build-up of smegma, a natural lubricant produced beneath the foreskin. If smegma builds up, it can cause difficulty in moving the foreskin, create a strong odour, & potentially cause infection. It can be caused by poor hygiene, infection (yeast infection, or thrush), skin conditions or rashes, or irritation.
- Sexually transmitted disease (STD or STI) – the two most common STIs that cause penile discharge are chlamydia & gonorrhoea. With chlamydia, the discharge is white or cloudy, & you may also have pain in the testicles or with urination. With gonorrhoea, the discharge is thick, white, yellow, or green, & the head of the penis is usually inflamed.
- Urethritis – this is when the urethra becomes inflamed, & may or may not be due to infection. The discharge with urethritis is typically white or cloudy, & is accompanied by a burning sensation with urination.
Whatever the cause, it is important to get checked by a clinician. Infections & inflammation are curable, so do not hesitate to come in & get treated.
During your appointment, the clinician will ask you about your symptoms, when they started, & anything that might have caused them. They will perform a physical examination. If the clinician suspects that you have an infection, they may need to take a swab of the discharge, in order to have it tested at the laboratory.