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By: RSC Editorial Team

July 8, 2021

What Do STD Discharges Look Like?

Your discharge is an excellent indicator of your vaginal or penile health. If you notice any changes to your discharge’s normal consistency, smell, color, or overall appearance, this change may indicate an underlying health issue, such as an STD. 

If you’re wondering, “What does STD discharge look like?” read on to learn everything you need to know about vaginal or penile STI discharge.

What Does a Normal Vaginal Discharge Look Like?

Vaginal discharge is the fluid that leaks from the vaginal opening. This fluid helps clean the vagina, fight infections, and prevent diseases. As a result, experiencing a small amount of discharge each day is normal and no cause for concern. 

While every woman’s discharge may look slightly different, healthy vaginal discharge typically has the following characteristics:

  • Color: Clear, off-white, or milky.
  • Texture: Ranging from thin and sticky to thick and gooey.
  • Odor: Tangy or sour.

The color and thickness of vaginal discharge often changes as a woman nears ovulation. 

However, if you notice any significant changes in the odor, color, or texture of your vaginal discharge, you may be experiencing a vaginal infection. 

What Is a Normal Male Discharge?

Male discharge is not as frequent or common as female discharge. In males, penile discharge occurs with sexual arousal and activity and is known as pre-ejaculate or ejaculate. 

Pre-ejaculate, or pre-cum, is a clear fluid resembling mucus that secretes from the tip of the penis before sex. This discharge helps lubricate the penis for sex and clears any lingering acids from urine out of the penis. 

Meanwhile, ejaculate is a white, gooey fluid that exits the penis when a man orgasms. This substance contains sperm and fluid from the Cowper’s glands, along with water, sugar, enzymes, and protein. 

Any discharge that a man experiences outside of pre-ejaculate and ejaculate is abnormal and may indicate an underlying issue. Outside of sexual activity, if you notice a discharge that is foul-smelling, discolored, or oozing, you may be exhibiting symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases

STD Discharges in Females and Males


Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection that often goes undetected for long periods. 

Does chlamydia mean your partner cheated? Many people experience no symptoms when they have chlamydia. As a result, you or your partner could have contracted chlamydia before you became exclusive and not noticed any symptoms. 

Chlamydia can affect both men and women. More than 200,000 people across the U.S. experience chlamydia each year. 

What Chlamydia Discharges Look Like in Women

One of the most prevalent symptoms of chlamydia in women is unusual discharge. Women who contract this STI often experience strong-smelling yellow, milky, or white discharge.

What Chlamydia Discharges Look Like in Men

Unusual discharge may also be a symptom of chlamydia in men. Chlamydia may produce discharge from the tip of the penis or the rectum. This STI discharge may look cloudy, watery, white, yellow, or pus-like. 

Sometimes, chlamydia discharge creates a burning or itching sensation near the opening of the penis. If you notice any abnormal discharge or pain around your penis or rectum, an STD test can help you determine the source of this issue. 

Other Chlamydia Symptoms, Testing, and Treatment

Often, chlamydia does not present any symptoms, which makes this STI challenging to detect. However, a few signs that may be present in women include:

  • Bleeding between periods.
  • Painful urination.

Men may experience symptoms such as:

  • Testicular pain.
  • Pain or bleeding around the anus.

Additionally, men and women may notice the following symptoms of chlamydia:

  • Eye discharge or pain.
  • Pain during sex.
  • Lower belly pain.

If you suspect that you may have chlamydia, the best course of action is to stop having sex and take an STD test. This test can reveal if your symptoms are from a sexually transmitted infection or another type of infection, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI). 

The most common treatment for chlamydia is a round of antibiotics. If your STD test reveals that you are positive for chlamydia, your doctor may prescribe you azithromycin or doxycycline to kill the bacteria causing this infection. 


Trichomoniasis, also known as “trich,” is a sexually transmitted infection that affects more than 3 million individuals nationwide each year. 

How can you get trichomoniasis? This infection spreads through sexual contact and resolves within days or weeks with the proper treatment. 

Trichomoniasis is the most prevalent treatable STD in the U.S. However, only about 30% of people who have trichomoniasis develop any symptoms, making it essential that individuals seek out STD testing regularly with or without symptoms. 

Trichomoniasis and Vaginal Discharges

One of the most common trichomoniasis symptoms in women is a change in vaginal discharge. Women may notice the following discharge changes after contracting trichomoniasis:

  • Thin discharge.
  • Increased discharge volume.
  • White, greenish, or yellowish color.
  • Fishy smell.

Trichomoniasis and Penile Discharges

Trichomoniasis can also lead to unusual discharge in men. Men who have contracted this STD may experience white discharge from the penis outside of sexual activity. 

Other Trichomoniasis Symptoms, Testing, and Treatment

Trichomoniasis symptoms can range from mild to severe. A few common symptoms aside from unusual discharge include:

  • Itching or burning around the genitals.
  • Painful urination.
  • Pain during sex.

Contracting this STD can make having sex painful and can put one at a greater risk of getting other sexually transmitted diseases. For example, trichomoniasis may cause symptoms that make it easier to contract HIV. 

Without proper treatment, trichomoniasis can stay in the body for several months or years. Thankfully, however, trichomoniasis is very treatable with antibiotics. Your doctor may prescribe either metronidazole or tinidazole to kill the bacteria causing this infection. 

Individuals who have had trichomoniasis can contract it again. As a result, many people get tested a few months after finishing treatment to ensure that trichomoniasis has not returned. 

Practicing safe sex and undergoing regular STD testing are essential to preventing trichomoniasis and treating it when it does occur. 


Gonorrhea, also known as “the clap,” is an infection resulting from a sexually transmitted bacterium. This infection can affect both men and women and can spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

Gonorrhea often produces symptoms in the throat, rectum, or urethra. However, many people do not experience any symptoms after contracting gonorrhea. 

Gonorrhea Discharges in Women

Gonorrhea can produce abnormal discharge in women. Women who have contracted gonorrhea may experience:

  • Increased discharge volume.
  • Yellowish or greenish discharge.
  • Watery or creamy discharge.

If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to undergo an STD test as soon as possible to identify the cause. 

Gonorrhea and Penile Discharges

Men sometimes experience abnormal discharge due to gonorrhea as well. This infection can produce a pus-like penile discharge that looks white, yellow, or green. 

Other Gonorrhea Symptoms, Testing, and Treatment

Gonorrhea can also produce other symptoms in the rectum, eyes, throat, and joints for both men and women. A few common symptoms of gonorrhea include:

  • Painful urination.
  • Pain or swelling in one testicle.
  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Mushroom-like odor from the vagina.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Anal itching.
  • Eye pain.
  • Sore throat or swollen lymph nodes.
  • Swollen joints.

Women younger than 25 and men who have sex with men are more likely to contract gonorrhea than other populations. In addition, having sex with more than one partner or contracting other sexually transmitted infections can also increase one’s risk. 

A rapid STD test can help you identify if you have gonorrhea. If you do, a doctor may prescribe an injection of ceftriaxone, along with the oral medication azithromycin, to kill the bacteria and treat your symptoms.

Other Causes of Unusual Vaginal Discharges

Unusual vaginal discharges can occur due to a wide range of causes and are not always a sign of a sexually transmitted infection. A few common conditions that produce abnormal discharge include bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. 

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is a condition that occurs when too much bacteria is present in the vagina, offsetting the normal bacterial balance. This condition often occurs in sexually active women, but it is not a sexually transmitted infection. Doctors are still discovering the exact causes of bacterial vaginosis. 

Bacterial vaginosis often produces unusual discharge in women and other symptoms around the genital area. The most common symptoms include:

  • Thin white or gray discharge.
  • A fish-like odor from the vagina.
  • Burning, itching, or pain in the vagina.

A doctor can diagnose bacterial vaginosis by examining a sample of the vaginal fluid. While this condition sometimes goes away on its own, doctors typically prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria. 

Yeast Infections

Yeast infections can also create abnormal vaginal discharge. A vaginal yeast infection occurs when the fungus Candida albicans enters the vagina and disrupts the natural yeast balance within the vaginal cell layers. 

While yeast infections are not sexually transmitted diseases, the risk of developing a yeast infection increases after one’s first sexual activity. In addition, antibiotic use, pregnancy, and an impaired immune system can also cause the overgrowth of yeast that leads to a yeast infection. 

Vaginal yeast infections produce the following symptoms:

  • Watery discharge.
  • White, thick discharge resembling cottage cheese.
  • Vaginal pain.
  • Itching and swelling of the vulva.
  • Vaginal rash.

To diagnose a yeast infection, your doctor may perform a pelvic exam and test a sample of your vaginal fluid. They may then prescribe an antifungal medication or oral medication, depending on the severity of your symptoms. 

Other Conditions That Cause Abnormal Discharges in Men

Men may experience abnormal discharge due to conditions other than STIs. The most common alternative causes of abnormal discharge in men are urethritis, balanitis, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). 


Urethritis occurs when the urethra becomes inflamed. This condition results from bacteria entering the urethra or urinary tract.

Both men and women can develop urethritis, though it is more common in women. Men who develop urethritis often experience symptoms such as:

  • Urethral discharge.
  • Blood in the urine or semen.
  • Itching or burning while urinating.
  • Itching or burning near the tip of the penis.

A physician can diagnose urethritis by examining the genitals, taking a urine sample, or swabbing the urethra. About 20% of urethritis cases result from the same bacterium that causes the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea. As a result, doctors may test for STDs while diagnosing urethritis. 

Urethritis is treatable through a variety of oral antibiotics. Most treatments kill the bacteria within seven days. 

Unfortunately, urethritis can spread to the kidneys, blood, or bladder and create more severe infections if left untreated. As a result, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, be sure to make an appointment with a physician right away. 


Balanitis refers to a swelling of the head of the penis that affects approximately one in 20 men. This condition often occurs due to bacteria, injury to the penis, or irritation to the tip of the penis. Men who are uncircumcised experience balanitis more often than those who are circumcised. 

Balanitis typically produces mild symptoms, including:

  • Penile discharge.
  • Pain or itching in the genital area.
  • Tightened foreskin.
  • Swelling of the penis tip.
  • Painful urination.

To treat balanitis, physicians often prescribe a topical medication, such as medicated anti-itch cream. Over-the-counter antifungal creams may also be effective in treating this condition. 


Another common cause of abnormal discharge in men is a UTI. A UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urethra and begin to multiply within the bladder. This infection primarily produces symptoms in the urethra, but some men also experience unusual discharge with UTIs. UTIs occur more commonly for women.

What to Do if You Have Abnormal Discharges

If you are experiencing abnormal discharge, determining the cause of the discharge will help you identify the proper treatment. We recommend starting with STD testing and then getting tested for other bacterial infections if your results are inconclusive. 

Same-day STD tests can give you fast, reliable answers about any STDs you have contracted, allowing you to begin treatment quickly. At Rapid STD Testing, we offer fast testing at screening centers throughout the U.S., enabling you to get tested today and receive your results in one to three business days. 

If you test positive for an STD, one of our doctors will call you to discuss your treatment options. We will then send any prescriptions to your preferred pharmacy and ensure that you have all the resources you need moving forward. 

If all your STD tests come back negative, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a physician to receive further testing. You may have a yeast infection or UTI that does not show up on our tests. 

Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Partner From STDs

Undergoing regular STD testing is an essential step in practicing safe sex and identifying any STDs as they occur. Whether you experience symptoms or not, you should complete an STD test:

  • Every time you switch partners.
  • Before having sex with a new partner.
  • If you have been forced to have sexual intercourse.
  • At least once per year, as long as you are sexually active.

Some STDs take several months to appear in lab results after sex with a positive partner. As a result, even if your last test came back negative, an STD may show up on a future test. 

When it comes to safe sex, many people wonder, “Can lambskin condoms protect against STDs?” Unfortunately, the pores in the lambskin membrane do not prevent bacteria from passing from partner to partner. 

While lambskin condoms do prevent pregnancy, they do not prevent STDs. Instead, we recommend using polyurethane, polyisoprene, or female condoms that do stop the spread of STDs. 

Conclusion: Get Answers Today

Now that you’re armed with knowledge, you can stop googling “What does STD discharge look like?” Instead, you can get peace of mind by taking action today.

If you are experiencing abnormal discharge, a rapid STD test can help you determine if an STD is the cause. Visit one of our Rapid STD Testing centers today to complete a full-panel STD test and get the fast and reliable answers you need.


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By: RSC Editorial Team
July 8, 2021

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