Penile Discharge: 6 Common Causes (& What to Do)

Penile discharge can be normal, especially during times of sexual stimulation, as the urethra (which usually transports urine) releases a clear liquid prior to ejaculation.

However, when penile discharge is noted outside of sexual activity, particularly if it has a brown, yellow or green color, it may be a sign of an infection, like gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, chlamydia or a yeast infection. These infections can cause further symptoms, like itchiness or painful urination.

If you frequently notice penile discharge, you should see a urologist for assessment. The doctor will assess your signs and symptoms to reach a diagnosis and start treatment as necessary. 

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Main causes

The main causes of penile discharge are: 

1. Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection that can be spread with or without penetration. It it typically spread through unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex. 

In most cases, men with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. However, they may notice a white-yellow discharge (similar to pus) as well as pain or burning with urination or sore throat, if transmitted orally. 

What to do: Treatment should be prescribed by a urologist, who may prescribe antibiotics like oral azithromycin or a single infection of ceftriaxone 500 mg. Read more about gonorrhea treatment and the home remedies you can use to complement it. 

2. Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis in men is an infection that can be transmitted through unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex. Learn more about the most common STIs and the symptoms associated with them.

Although many men do not present with any symptoms of trichomoniasis, some may notice pain or burning with urination, genital itching, and a white liquid discharge from the penis. .

What to do: Treatment is prescribed by a urologist and can last 5 to 7 days. It usually involves the use of antibiotics like tinidazole, secnidazole or metronidazole. Treatment for trichomoniasis should also extend to sexual partners, even if they do not have any symptpoms.

3. Chlamydia

Chlamydia can be transmitted through semen or vaginal fluid contaminated with Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. It can spread through unprotected sex, with or without penetration. Chlamydia in men usually presents with a clear or white penile discharge, pain or burning with urination, testicular pain or swelling, or a sore throat. 

Learn more about about the symptoms of chlamydia and how it is diagnosed. 

What to do: Generally, treatment involves a single injection of ceftriaxone 500 mg, 1 g of azithromycin or the use of doxycyline or erithromycin for 7 days.

4. Yeast infection

A male yeast infection occurs due to excessive growth of Candida fungus on the penis. This can occur due to unprotected sex, poor hygiene or changes to immune system due to a viral infection, stress, diabetes or chemotherapy, for example. 

Symptoms of a male yeast infection can include white discharge (similar to cottage cheese), white or red spots on the penis, and pain, itching or burning around the glans. Read more about male yeast infections and how they present differently than in women.

What to do: Treatment may include antifungal creams or ointments, like miconazole or clotrimazole, and/or some oral medications, like fluconazole and hydrocortisone. Sitz baths with chamomile or Stryphnodendron are some home remedies that can compliment prescribed medical treatment. Check out other sitz baths for yeast infections you can prepare to relieve symptoms at home.

You can also use these home remedies for yeast infections that can complement your medical treatment. 

5. Urethritis

Urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra that primarily appears due to the migration of intestinal bacteria to the area from unprotected sex or poor hygiene.

Symptoms vary depending on the cause, but can include a yellow-green discharge with a foul odor, white discharge, pain or burning with urination or blood in the urine or semen. Learn more about what else can cause blood in the semen and what to do.

What to do: Treatment depends on the cause of urethritis and should be indicated by a urologist, who may prescribe antibiotics like azithromycin, doxycycline or a single injection of ceftriaxone 500 mg.  

6. Balanitis

Balanitis is an inflammation of glans that can occur due to viral, bacterial or fungal infections. These infections are often transmitted through unprotected sex, but can also be caused by poor hygiene or allergies to creams, soaps or certain fabrics. 

The most common symptoms of balanitis include redness, pain, swelling and small lesions. Pus-filled blisters, itching and a white or clear discharge with foul odor may also be noted. 

What to do: Balanitis caused by an infection can be treated with adequate hygiene practices and medications like antibiotics and antifungals. To treat skin reactions, you should avoid using the products that causes irritation, and treat symptoms with anti-inflammatories.