Is male discharge normal?
December 18, 2022
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Is male discharge normal?

All HOMED-IQ content is reviewed by medical specialists

Discharge from the penis is when any liquid other than urine comes out of the urethra. There are different types of male discharge which can have varying causes- some of which are totally healthy and normal, and others that may require medical attention. In this article, we’ll discuss these types of discharge and their possible causes.

What types of male discharge are there?

There are several types of male discharge (besides urine) that are completely normal. One of these is the clear fluid that is released before ejaculation and comes out of the penis during sexual arousal. This is sometimes called “pre-cum” and is released by the body to purify the acids from urine, making it easier for semen to leave the body. This leads to a greater survival of the sperm cells during ejaculation (Betjes, 2017). Another normal type of penile discharge is semen- during ejaculation, a white, cloudy discharge is released when a man reaches orgasm.

However, there are also some types of discharge from the penis that are not normal and may require further medical attention. 

What are the causes of penile discharge?

Urethritis

The most common cause of penile discharge is an inflammation of the urethra known as urethritis. Your urethra runs from your bladder to the tip of your penis, where urine flows out of your body. The walls of your urethra are made of mucus membranes and can become inflamed by certain bacteria, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) certain soaps or detergents, or genital injuries (NHS, 2020). Common STIs that can cause urethritis are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. Urethritis is usually diagnosed with a urine or swab test and is treated with antibiotics. 

Symptoms of urethritis include:

  • A white, green, yellow, beige, or cloudy discharge from the penis
  • Pain or irritation at the tip of the penis
  • Burning or pain when you pee or during sex

If the urethritis is caused by an STI, symptoms can also include:

  • Testicular pain
  • Itching during urination
  • Increased need to urinate

Would you like to test yourself for STIs that can cause urethritis? Consider a home test, such as Homed-IQ’s Basic-3 STI Test. This test can be performed from home and checks for three common STIs that can cause penile discharge: chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis.

Balanitis

Balanitis is a condition that causes the head of the penis to be swollen and sore. It is usually caused by a yeast infection (candidiasis), an STI, poor hygiene, or the use of certain types of soap or shampoo that irritate the skin. Treatment for balanitis depends on the cause, but can include antifungal creams, antibiotics, and improved hygiene. This means washing your penis daily, keeping the penis dry after bathing and urinating, and avoiding harsh soaps.

Symptoms of balanitis are:

  • Pain or irritation on the head of the penis
  • Itching under foreskin
  • White discharge under the foreskin
  • Foul smell
  • Painful urination
  • Redness on the penis

Source: Cleveland Clinic, 2019

Prostatitis

The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland that is located below the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The prostate’s main function is to produce fluid that mixes with sperm to make semen. Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland that can be caused when bacteria in the urinary tract enters the prostate. In some cases, the cause of prostatitis is not clear (NHS, 2020). Prostatitis that is caused by an infection is treated with antibiotics and painkillers. Treatment for prostatitis with no clear cause aims to control symptoms through painkillers and other medications. 

Symptoms of prostatitis can include:

  • Pain around the penis, testicles, anus, or lower back
  • Pain when peeing, a frequent or urgent need to pee, or problems starting to pee
  • Blood in urine
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Prostate pain
  • Erectile dysfunction

Is male discharge a symptom of an STI?

Unusual discharge from the penis is usually caused by an STI (Thuisartsl, 2022). STIs such as chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause discharge that is often cloudy, thick, foul smelling, and may be yellow, green, or brown in colour. They may also cause symptoms of testicular pain, itching or burning, and painful urination. However, discharge from the penis can also be caused by other non-sexually transmited infections. To reliably rule out an STI and identify what treatment is needed, it is a good idea to get tested. If the test result is negative, the discharge may be caused by another infection or medical condition, and you should follow-up with your GP for further advice.

Would you like to learn more about potential STI symptoms in men? Read our blog.

Can you fix male discharge yourself?

Discharge from the penis is usually caused by an infection or other medical condition that is best treated by a healthcare professional. If the condition can be treated from home, your doctor will advise you on what to do.

What are the risks of not treating infections that affect the penis?

If you have penile discharge as a result of an STI or other bacterial infection, it is important to get prompt treatment to relieve the symptoms and prevent the infection from spreading. For example, an untreated urinary tract infection can spread to the prostate or epididymis (NHS, 2020). These infections can cause swelling, increased pain, and issues with urination.

If you are experiencing discharge from your penis and are sexually active, it is important to rule out STIs as the cause. Homed-IQ self-tests allow you to perform a laboratory test for STIs without visiting a doctor or clinic. Would you like to test for the most common STIs? Homed-IQ’s STI Test Comprehensive checks for eight STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes. All tests are easy to take from home and completely anonymous. Looking for a specific test? View our entire sexual health test portfolio here.

References:

Balanitis: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Prevention & Relief. (2019). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21186-balanitis

Betjes, E. (2017, February 7). What is pre-ejaculate or precum? ISSM. https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-is-pre-ejaculate-or-precum/

NHS website. (2018, June). Balanitis. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/balanitis/

NHS website. (2020, March 11). Prostatitis. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/prostatitis/

Thuisarts. (2022, October 6). Er komt slijm of pus uit mijn penis. https://www.thuisarts.nl/slijm-of-pus-uit-penis/er-komt-slijm-of-pus-uit-mijn-penis

About the author

Lauren Dobischok

Lauren is a health scientist and science communicator living in the Netherlands. With a background in epidemiology, her goal is to create accurate scientific content that is easy to understand and empowers people to make informed decisions. Her favourite topics to discuss are public health, infectious diseases, and dispelling myths and misconceptions about health topics with research. Coming from Canada, Lauren prefers to spend her free time learning Dutch and exploring the interesting sights this small country has to offer!