What Is Penile Discharge? Is It an STD?
Unexplained penile discharge is usually a result of urethritis, that is, inflammation of the urethra. The urethra is the tube that connects the urinary bladder to the outside of the body and includes the opening at the end of the penis. Both urine and semen pass through the urethra.
Urethritis may be caused by the germs that cause sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or the germs that cause urinary tract infections (also called bladder infections), and the symptoms of these conditions may be similar. Men between 20-35 years of age are most at risk for developing infectious urethritis, as are men who have multiple sexual partners or those who engage in high-risk behaviors such as not using condoms or anal intercourse.
What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Penile Discharge?
Burning and pain when urinating are classic symptoms of urethritis. You may also feel the urge to urinate more often than normal. Other symptoms can include itching, tenderness, or swelling in the penis, pain with sexual intercourse, or blood in the urine or semen.
Some infections may also be associated with discharge from the penis. Painful ulcers on the genitals can be present with herpes urethritis, another sexually transmitted disease.
Simple urethritis does not cause fever or severe illness. If the disease spreads to other organs in the genital or urinary tract or into the bloodstream, however, it may result in the following:
- Back pain
- Abdominal pain
- High fevers
- Swollen joints and other symptoms of disease throughout the body
What Causes Penile Discharge? Is It Caused by an STD?
- The sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) (gonorrhea and chlamydia specifically) cause the majority of cases of infectious urethritis. The virus that causes herpes and other infections transmitted during sexual activity can also cause urethritis.
- Chemical irritation caused by soaps, lotions, and colognes can cause temporary pain in the urethra. Spermicide in condoms and contraceptive jelly, cream, or foam can also cause irritation.
- Mechanical manipulation of the penis or minor trauma may lead to urethritis. Medical procedures, rubbing on rough clothing, as well as vigorous sexually activity or masturbation can cause a temporary irritation of the urethra.
- Sometimes ejaculation can cause a temporary feeling similar to urethritis. This usually goes away in a brief period without any specific treatment.
- Chronic urethritis (when the condition lasts for weeks or months or goes away and comes back) may be caused by bacteria, or it can also be caused by a narrowing of the tube (urethra) itself.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Gaydos, C.A., N. Maldeis, A. Hardick, J. Hardick, and T.C. Quinn. "Mycoplasma Genitalium Compared to Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomonas as an Etiologic Agent of Urethritis in Men Attending STD Clinics." Sex Transm Infect. Apr. 20, 2009.
Moi, H., N. Reinton, and A. Moghaddam. "Mycoplasma Genitalium Is Associated With Symptomatic and Asymptomatic Non-gonococcal Urethritis in Men." Sex Transm Infect 85 Feb. 2009: 15-18..
Shahmanesh, M., H. Moi, F. Lassau, and M. Janier. "2009 European Guideline on the Management of Male Non-gonococcal Urethritis." Int J STD AIDS 20.7 July 2009: 458-464.
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "2006 Guidelines for Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases." MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 55(RR-11): 1-94.
Wetmore, C.M., L.E. Manhart, and M.R. Golden. "Idiopathic Urethritis in Young Men in the United States: Prevalence and Comparison to Infections With Known Sexually Transmitted Pathogens." J Adolesc Health 45.5 Nov. 2009: 463-472.