Article updated: 27th March 2023
Although not a topic that’s regularly spoken about, discharge is completely natural and it can come in many different forms. In saying that, if your discharge has changed color and the smell and texture seem slightly different, it may be trying to tell you something.
For women, what’s considered ‘normal’ vaginal discharge tends to vary, whereas for men - any discharge that isn’t pre-ejaculation or ejaculation is worth looking further into. However, for both genders, an abnormal change in discharge can be a sign of an underlying issue or a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
If it’s possible that an STI may have caused a change in your discharge, it’s important to know more about these common STIs that cause discharge in both men and women:
- Genital herpes
See also: Can an STI go Undetected?
What STIs cause discharge?
Almost anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting an STI. In fact, around 1 in 5 people in the United States have an STI according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .
So, if you believe that your discharge is a symptom of one of the below sexually transmitted infections, it’s nothing to be concerned about. Remember, when STIs are detected early and you receive the correct treatment - they can be cured and the symptoms associated with them will ease and clear up.
The following STIs are known to cause discharge in both men and women, let’s learn more.
As the most commonly reported STI in the United States , chlamydia, and the symptoms associated with it, are likely widely known by sexually active adults - namely burning sensations and painful urination. In addition to these familiar symptoms is unusual discharge - in both men and women.
In women, this vaginal discharge is usually milky and white or yellow in color with a strong odor, some experience a discharge similar to cottage cheese (this type of discharge may also be a sign of a yeast infection).
In men, this penile discharge usually comes from the tip of the penis and is a white, cloudy, or watery discharge.
See also: Does Chlamydia Cause Long-Term Damage?
Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI), particularly among those aged 15-24 years . Apart from a burning sensation when urinating (similar to chlamydia), gonorrhea is also associated with discharge in both genders.
In women, it’s common to experience more discharge than ‘normal’. This vaginal discharge may be cream, yellow, or slightly green.
In men, it’s usually a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis.
See also: Chlamydia and Gonorrhea: How to Know The Difference
Sometimes referred to as ‘trich’, trichomoniasis is a common infection caused by the bacteria Trichomonas vaginalis. While almost 70% of those infected experience little to no symptoms , when symptoms do appear, they usually include itching, irritation, and discharge in the genital area.
In women, vaginal discharge may become thin or they may notice there’s a larger volume of it. This discharge is often white, yellow, or green in color.
In men, the penile discharge may be thin and white.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people with genital herpes don’t realize they have it , which is why regular sexual health screening is so important! If you do notice a change in your discharge, it may be a result of a genital herpes infection.
In women, the vaginal discharge is often thick, white, and clear.
In men, the discharge usually occurs at the tip of the penis. It’s common for this discharge to be thick, white, or cloudy.
See also: Can Herpes go Away on Its Own?
Although it’s not entirely clear how bacterial vaginosis (BV) spreads, according to the CDC, it’s a common condition that tends to occur in sexually active women. It occurs when there is an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina and is often associated with a thin grey or white vaginal discharge, pain, or itching.
Can you treat discharge caused by STIs?
The treatment given depends entirely on the underlying cause. In this case, treatment for the above STIs typically involves a course of antibiotics. Following this treatment correctly can cure the infection and clear up any associated symptoms - including unusual vaginal or penile discharge.
It’s important to note that discharge caused by an STI might not look the same for everyone. If you are concerned about your discharge, it’s important to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider. If you simply want to know more about your sexual health, you can check in with yourself from the comfort of home with a lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s range of STI Tests allows you to detect some of the most common infections from the comfort of home. Online results will be available within 2-5 days and our dedicated medical team will be available every step of the way to answer any questions you may have regarding the process, results, or treatment.
You should consider taking a 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
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease (STDs). Online: Cdc.gov
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia. Online: Cdc.gov
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea. Online: Cdc.gov
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trichomoniasis. Online: Cdc.gov