While any type of penile discharge can be alarming, you don’t necessarily need to panic. There are several reasons why secretions can occur, apart from STIs. However, if you are at risk for an STI, it is always a good idea to get tested. Unusual discharge could signal that it’s time to visit a sexual health clinic.

There are a number of possible explanations for penile discharge:

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urethra, caused by improper cleaning after using the toilet (bacteria from the rectum enter the urinary tract).

Symptoms include:

  • Clear or pus-like discharge
  • frequent urination
  • Burning when urinating
  • cloudy/smelly urine

Urethritis is inflammation or infection of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder). It is usually caused by bacteria transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected person, but it can also be caused by viruses or bacteria that are not sexually transmitted.

Symptoms include:

  • discharge from the penis
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Itching near the opening of the penis
  • Blood in semen or urine

Balanitis is inflammation of the head of the penis, caused by poor hygiene below the foreskin, an allergic reaction to soaps, condoms or others, or an STI.

Symptoms include:

  • discharge from under the foreskin
  • Itch
  • pain when urinating
  • Rash with reddish spots

STIs that can produce secretions

In many people, STIs will show no symptoms. However, if you have an unusual discharge, it’s important to get tested for the following STIs, symptoms of which may include:

Chlamydia

  • Watery discharge/mucus from the tip of the penis
  • Urethritis
  • testicle pain

Gonorrhea

  • White, yellow, or green fluid from the tip of the penis
  • pain when urinating
  • testicular swelling

Mycoplasma

  • discharge from the urethra
  • pain when urinating
  • Pain or irritation in the penis

Tricomonas

  • Thin, white discharge
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Pain when urinating or ejaculating

Unusual discharge from the penis could be a sign of any of the above. If you are concerned about your sexual health, an STI test is a good place to start. This way you can ensure that your health is protected and that you are treating the right problem effectively.

If you suspect you have urethritis, it is important to test for Chlamydia , Gonorrhea , and Mycoplasma , as urethritis is associated with the bacteria that cause these STIs. The viruses that cause Herpes and HPV/Genital Warts can also cause urethritis, so testing for them is also recommended.