Whether it’s watery or cloudy, a result of ejaculation, or a potential infection; penile discharge is any fluid that comes from the urethra that isn’t urine and it can come in a variety of forms which usually brings about a variety of questions.

This is everything you need to know about penile discharge - the good, the bad, and the downright normal.

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What is penile discharge?

Penile discharge is considered to be any substance that comes out of the penis that isn’t urine. Some types of discharge, such as ejaculate, which occurs during orgasm, and pre-ejaculatory fluid, which occurs during sexual stimulation before climax, are both considered normal and are nothing to worry about.

Is it normal to have penile discharge?

Pre-ejaculation and ejaculation are a form of discharge; each of which is generally clear, occur as a result of sexual arousal or sexual activity and are completely normal. Another common type that you may notice is smegma; a thick, white discharge that builds up around the head of the penis and acts as a natural lubricant to keep the penis moist. While it’s common to have smegma, keeping your genital area clean to stop bacteria from growing in the area is important.

With that said, there are other forms of penile discharge that aren’t as common and might be a result of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or another infection.

What are the causes of penile discharge?

Whilst penile discharge is a common side effect of a handful of STIs, other infections can also be the cause. The majority of causes are nothing to worry about and though medical treatment may sometimes be required, they can be curable.

Here are some of the most common causes of penile discharge:


Prostatitis occurs when the prostate gland - the small gland located directly below the bladder in men, becomes swollen and inflamed [1]. It can occur in men of any age and it can sometimes prove difficult to know the underlying cause.

Symptoms of prostatitis include:

  • Small amounts of thick discharge
  • Pain in or around the penis, testicles, anus, lower abdomen or lower back
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Blood in urine


Are you experiencing pain while urinating or an increased urge to urinate? Urethritis might be the reason. Urethritis occurs when your urethra becomes inflamed. This may be experienced as a result of a bacterial infection, genital injuries, or irritation from soap or detergent amongst other things [2].

Symptoms of urethritis include:

  • Cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine


If the head of your penis is swollen and sore, it may be a result of balanitis; a type of yeast infection that can occur in all males, though is more common in uncircumcised men [3]. It’s possible to develop balanitis if you have diabetes, use antibiotics for prolonged periods, or are overweight.

Symptoms of balanitis include:

  • Thick, white discharge in skin folds of penis
  • Areas of white skin on the penis
  • Itching or a burning sensation on the penis



Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STI in the world in both men and women [4]. Only a few people with chlamydia actually develop signs and symptoms though if they do appear in men, they can include an unexpected discharge from the penis, painful urination and testicular pain.


Gonorrhea is commonly referred to as the 'drip’ as one of the most well-known symptoms of the infection is an unusual white, yellow, beige or green penile discharge. Other symptoms can include an increased need to urinate and a pain in the penis or testicles [5].


Trichomoniasis is more commonly seen in women and it’s normal for men who contract the infection to have no symptoms [6]. Though if they do, an unusual drip or discharge from the penis, itching or burning during urination and a burning sensation inside the penis are some of the most common.

Is penile discharge a sign of an STD?

If you’re experiencing a discharge from your penis that’s not urine, pre-ejaculation or ejaculation, you should visit your local doctor for a quick check-up.

If you have a reason to suspect that you may have contracted an STI, take a test with your local doctor or opt to take a test from the comfort of your own home.

LetsGetChecked’s at home STI tests don’t require you to take time out of your busy schedule or speak to someone face to face. Your online results will be available within a week along with prescription options for certain infections.

You should consider taking the test if:

  • You become sexually active
  • You have had unprotected sex
  • You are experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection
  • You are entering into a new sexual relationship
  • You have received a notification from a previous partner that they are infected

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  1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Prostatitis. Online: Mayoclinic.org, 2020

  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Urinary Tract Infection. Online: Mayoclinic.org, 2019

  3. Mayo Clinic Staff. Yeast infection in men: How can I tell if I have one?. Online: Mayoclinic.org, 2018

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia - CDC Fact Sheet. Online: Cdc.gov, 2016

  5. Mayo Clinic Staff. Gonorrhea. Online: Mayoclinic.org, 2019

  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. Trichomoniasis. Online: Mayoclinic.org, 2018