Written on November 29, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Male sexual health is part of the overall health of men. Issues concerning sexual function, activity, and penile health are essential components of being healthy. Various conditions affect your health, such as erectile dysfunction, yeast or bacterial infections of the penis, or a decrease in libido. Various symptoms like itching, burning, and soreness of the genitals, painful urination, or a swollen penis can signal health problems. Having a symptom of white discharge as a male can also be concerning. Read on to find out more about penile discharge, the causes of white discharge in males, and how it can be treated.
Penile discharge can be normal and include pre-ejaculate and ejaculate during intercourse. Pre-ejaculate, or precum, is a thick mucus substance produced by two glands that are located below the prostate. The precum may help to function as a lubricant for semen, lubrication for the tip of the penis during intercourse, neutralizer for the acidic urine residue in the urethra, and neutralizer for vaginal acidity. Ejaculate, or semen, is a milky fluid that travels through the urethra and out of the penis following sexual arousal. Additionally, there is a thick, white substance composed of skin cells and oils called smegma. The smegma is released by oil glands in the skin that are located around the genitals. However, male discharge that does not occur during sexual intercourse or stimulation may be concerning and point to health issues.
Various conditions cause abnormal discharge.[2,3] Causes of white discharge in males may include urethritis, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), balanitis, or urinary tract infections.
Urethritis is the inflammation of the urethra. Urethritis may cause cloudy or white discharge from the penis and involve irritation and soreness at the urethral opening. The urethritis can be infectious or noninfectious. Infectious urethritis can be due to various pathogens, such as sexually transmitted infections.
STDs that can present with white penile discharge are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis and affects approximately 3.7 million people in the United States.[3,4] Chlamydia may cause a white, cloudy, or watery penile discharge with itching or burning at the tip of the penis and a burning feeling during urination. Chlamydia, caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, is the most commonly reported STD in the United States. Gonorrhea is also a common STD that is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium.[3,6]
Balanitis is the inflammation of the skin around the head of the penis. Symptoms of balanitis consist of thick, lumpy white or yellow discharge, an unpleasant smell, and a red and inflamed rash. Other symptoms are irritation, soreness, itching, burning, and pain when urinating. Different factors can lead to balanitis, such as poor hygiene, allergies, skin problems (eczema or psoriasis), bacterial or fungal infections, or sexually transmitted infections.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by bacteria can result in cloudy or white, pus-like discharge. Bacteria from the skin or rectum can enter the urethra and cause infection in the urinary tract. Other symptoms of UTIs in males include red, pink, or brown urine that contains blood, pain or a burning sensation when urinating, an urgency to urinate, strong-smelling urine, and nausea or vomiting.
Treatment of white discharge in males is dependent on what is causing the symptoms. For urethritis, balanitis, and UTIs, treatment usually includes antibiotics. Balanitis that is caused by a fungal infection would be treated with antifungals. During treatment, it is usually also suggested to abstain from sexual intercourse. The STDs that present with white penile discharge are also treated based on the causative agent. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis are three STDs that may cause white discharge in men. Here are the recommended treatment regimens and alternative options for each of these three STDs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recommended treatment for adults with uncomplicated gonococcal infection of the cervix, urethra, or rectum is a single intramuscular dose of ceftriaxone 500 mg. Ceftriaxone is an antibiotic belonging to the cephalosporin class. There are alternative regimens if a person is allergic to the recommended regimen. In cases where chlamydia co-infection cannot be excluded, doxycycline should be included as part of the regimen.
The CDC recommends antibiotic therapy with doxycycline for seven days for chlamydial infections among adolescents and adults. There are also alternative regimens if you are allergic to the recommended antibiotic. The alternative medications for chlamydial infection are azithromycin and levofloxacin.
Guideline recommendations from the CDC suggest treating trichomoniasis in men with 2 g of metronidazole orally as a single dose. Metronidazole is an anti-fungal medication directed to the parasite causing the STD. Tinidazole is the alternative therapeutic regimen for trichomoniasis.
There are also precautions you can take to prevent white discharge in males. You can practice safe sex by talking about sexual health with your partners. Additionally, using condoms appropriately is one of the best ways to prevent the transmission of STDs and other infections. Reducing the transmission of STDs can help prevent symptoms like white discharge from the penis.
Male discharge is not always a sign that there is an issue. If you are experiencing white discharge, you should reach out to your healthcare provider. To determine the cause of the penile discharge, your healthcare provider may ask you about all your symptoms, take note of your medical and sexual history, examine the affected area, order a urine sample, and get appropriate lab testing for the causative agent. After the healthcare provider identifies the cause of the discharge, they will determine the best course of treatment.
With Everlywell, there is an option for an online STD consult where you can virtually meet with a healthcare provider. If you think you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease, you can connect to a clinician in less than two hours. You can get treatment and have your prescription sent directly to your pharmacy, if applicable. The virtual care visit will include a discreet 20 to 30-minute video call with a healthcare provider where you can discuss your sexual health concerns and get your questions answered. The healthcare provider will provide personalized recommendations and next steps during the appointment based on your symptoms and exposure history.
Everlywell also has the option for an at-home STD test for males. This at-home lab test checks for six sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Your test results will tell you whether or not you test positive for exposure to a variety of STDs. If your test results are abnormal, you will have the opportunity to connect with our independent physician network at no additional cost to discuss your particular case and may receive treatment, if applicable.
Sendra Yang received her Doctor of Pharmacy and Master of Business Administration degrees from Wingate University School of Pharmacy. She is a skilled medical information professional with experience in the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy education, and clinical practice. She has also been a medical writer and editor for consumer health and medical content. Sendra is passionate about translating complex medical concepts into simple and easy-to-understand information.