Penile Discharge – Should I be Worried?Warning: this article includes graphic image some readers may find disturbing.
Abnormal discharge from the penis is something that many men are terrified of.
Unlike women, men do not normally have spontaneous discharge from the genitals. So when this happens, men naturally get extremely anxious and paranoid. Almost always, they would relate this to diseases they are most terrified of such as HIV and cancer.
These are some of the most common questions men ask when they come to see us. Of course, Google is our best friend these days. Most people would have already done some internet search and had some ideas of what it might be before they speak to a doctor. Unfortunately, as human beings, we always think of the worst case scenario. Let us explain penile discharge in details so you have a better understanding of this symptom.
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What is penile discharge?
The small opening at the end of the penis is called urethral opening. Urethra is the tube that carries urine and semen out of your body into the environment. Yes, only urine and semen comes out from there. If you have a fluid other than urine or semen that comes out from your urethral opening, it is abnormal. This is when you know you have penile discharge. It is the result of inflammation of the urethra. An abnormal discharge may be watery (clear), white, yellow, green or even bloody.
I also have other symptoms. Are they related?
Most likely. Along with penile discharge, you may also have:
- painful urination
- frequent need to pass urine
- rash in the genital area
- swollen lymph nodes in the groin
What causes penile discharge?
You are right. Penile discharge almost always is a sign of infection. Before thinking too far and relating this to diseases such as HIV, let us look at the common infective causes of penile discharge.
This is one of the most common STDs around. It always manifests as white/yellow/green discharge from the penis, and painful urination.
Unlike men, only 10-20% of women with gonorrhoea have an abnormal discharge. It is curable with antibiotics. See: Symptoms of Gonorrhoea
If left untreated for a period of time, it may lead to infertility. It may also enter the bloodstream and cause problems to the skin and joints.
Non-specific urethritis (NSU) or non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU)
These two terms essentially mean the same thing. Urethritis basically means inflammation of the urethra (refer to “what is penile discharge”). NSU/NGU means urethritis that is caused by anything other than gonorrhoea.
Rapid Chlamydia & Gonorrhoea Screening (Next Day Result)
NSU is caught during sex. Therefore, it is also a part of STD screening. It is, in fact, the most common cause of penile discharge. Men aged between 20 and 35 years are most commonly affected. Several different organisms can cause NSU:
- Chlamydia trachomatis
- Mycoplasma genitalium
- Ureaplasma urealyticum
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
UTI is a common term used to describe infection in any part of the urinary tract (ureter, bladder, urethra). It could be STD or non-STD. Non-STD bacteria that cause a UTI include E. coli, Klebsiella and Staphylococcus saprophyticus. Again, these fancy names may sound scary but they can be easily detected in a urine sample and treatable with antibiotics.
UTI is not common in men. If diagnosed with a UTI, they will require further investigations such as an ultrasound of the urinary tract system to find out the underlying problem.
What should I do?
See a doctor
As mentioned earlier, penile discharge is not normal. Consult a doctor for a proper assessment. The doctor will definitely speak to you about your sexual history. You will also require some tests to find out what the culprit is. STD screening is essential because most penile discharges are related to STDs. You will most likely be advised to have a comprehensive STD screening done to rule out all possibilities.
Abstain from sex
Hold off all sexual activities (including oral and anal sex) until your test results are out and you have been adequately treated. It is best to wait seven days after you have had your treatment course. This is important because if you have been infected with STD, you may potentially infect your partner(s) and cause more problems. If you REALLY have to engage in sexual intercourse, do use a condom, although condom is not 100% and you may still infect your partner(s).
Inform your sexual partner(s)
This is called contact tracing. If your penile discharge is due to a STD, your sexual partner(s) may have been infected as well – you may have got it from your partner(s), or vice versa. This includes your sexual partner(s) for the past 6 months.
As you can see, HIV and cancer are not mentioned anywhere in this discussion. That does not mean that you should take penile discharge lightly. We would like to stress again that penile discharge is NOT NORMAL. If you have this symptom, it is important to get yourself assessed and treated properly so you do not run into more severe problems later on.
As long as you are sexually active, you are at risk of STDs. This is why you should undergo comprehensive STD testing regularly. As is true for most STDs, a large number of men with these infections do not experience any symptoms, so routine testing when you are sexually active is very important.