For many people, the first obvious sign that they’ve contracted a sexually transmitted disease or infection is a discharge coming from their penis or vagina. While not all STDs cause discharge and not all genital discharge is caused by STDs, when combined with certain lifestyle factors, discharge can be a sure sign of an STD.

It’s not a pleasant thing to think about, but it’s important to know about how discharge relates to sexually transmitted diseases and other non-sexually transmitted infections or diseases that also can cause genital discharge.

What does chlamydia discharge smell like?

Most people who contract chlamydia will not notice any obvious signs, but many who do will first notice a discharge from the penis or vagina. This discharge is not usually accompanied by a smell. Those who notice a discharge that carries an odor with it may have a different condition, bacterial vaginosis, which can have a strong fishy smell. Any scent associated with chlamydia discharge is likely to be similar to that of normal vaginal discharge.

Does chlamydia smell fishy?

While chlamydia may cause discharge from the vagina, it’s not usually associated with any foul smells. Vaginal discharge caused by chlamydia may have an odor similar to that of normal vaginal discharge. But two other conditions, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis, which is a sexually transmitted infection, both are associated with strong vaginal odors.

Does chlamydia cause discharge?

Often the first obvious sign of chlamydia is discharge from the penis or vagina, but chlamydia is not the only condition that can cause discharge from the genitals. The sexually transmitted infections gonorrhea (the clap) and trichomoniasis both can cause discharge, as can bacterial vaginosis.

What color is discharge if you have an STD?

For both men and women, the first sign of a sexually transmitted disease or infection is unusual discharge from the penis or vagina. Not all STDs cause discharge, and not all discharge is caused by STDs. The causes and colors of discharge can vary between men and women:

Men

  • Chlamydia: Watery or cloudy discharge
  • Gonorrhea: White, yellow or green discharge
  • Urinary tract infection: Clear or cloudy discharge
  • Balantitis: Oozing discharge from under foreskin
  • Urethritis: Yellow/green discharge (can be caused by chlamydia, herpes or gonorrhea)

Women

  • Chlamydia: Watery or cloudy discharge
  • Gonorrhea: Cloudy, white, yellow or green discharge
  • Trichomoniasis (trich): Yellow/green, yellow or frothy discharge (often with fishy smell)
  • Bacterial vaginosis: White or gray discharge

What does gonorrhea smell like?

Most people who have gonorrhea do not experience symptoms — at least not ones they notice — but many people who do experience obvious signs notice an unusual discharge from their penis or vagina. For those with vaginas, this discharge could be green or yellow, and they may notice a mushroom-like odor from their vagina.

What does gonorrhea discharge look like?

Discharge from a gonorrhea infection, though it does not occur for all infected people, most frequently appears either clear, greenish-yellow or pus-tinged.

What does STD discharge look like female?

Not all sexually transmitted diseases cause any noticeable signs in those who become infected, but many of the STDs that do have obvious symptoms, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis, cause discharge from the vaginas of infected women. Depending on the STD that’s caused the discharge, it could appear cloudy or white, green, yellow or gray in color.

Does gonorrhea smell fishy?

Gonorrhea is not usually associated with a fishy-smelling discharge, though some women who become infected with gonorrhea note a mushroom-smelling odor from their vaginas. Trichomoniasis, or trich, is another STD, and the discharge that it creates is most often associated with a fishy scent.

What STD is associated with yellow discharge?

For both men and women, gonorrhea often causes a thin, yellow or yellowish-green discharge, and for women who are infected with another STD, trichomoniasis (trich), a yellow-green or frothy discharge that also has a distinct fishy smell is common.

Is brown discharge a sign of STDs?

On their own, no sexually transmitted diseases have been found to cause brown discharge in either men or women. However, women who are infected with a sexually transmitted disease, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, may experience brown discharge shortly before they start their periods. The brown color may simply be old blood exiting the uterus, but STDs can cause an increase in vaginal discharge and just before a period, it’s possible for this discharge to be brown in color.

Can smelly urine be a sign of an STD?

Some but not all sexually transmitted diseases cause a discharge from the genitals that often is noticed only during urination. Most of these discharges do not carry an odor, though some, such as that caused by trichomoniasis, have been associated with a distinct fishy odor. Chlamydia, similarly, has been known to cause a strong discharge odor similar to the smell of pus. The urine itself is not what carries the odor, however, as the odor, if present, is connected to the discharge.

Does chlamydia change pH balance?

Many things can impact the pH balance of a woman’s vagina, including antibiotics, unprotected sex or menstruating. Higher pH levels are known to create an ideal environment for bacteria, including trichomoniasis, an STD, and bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection that’s associated with a fishy discharge. Some research has connected higher vaginal pH levels with chlamydia.

Do I have a yeast infection or an STD?

Some but not all sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, can be mistaken for yeast infections in women. That’s because, like yeast infections, some STDs can cause irritation and discharge in the vaginas of infected people. Yeast infections are usually marked by itching, irritation and a thick, white discharge. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis, all STDs, can also cause discharge and irritation, as can bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection of the vagina. Two important signs can help tell a yeast infection from an STD — yeast infections are not associated with strong odors, and their discharge is thick, unlike most other causes of vaginal discharge, which lead to thin discharge that’s often a color other than white.

Can herpes cause discharge from the penis or vagina?

The most common symptom of herpes is small, often painful sores on the mouth, genitals or butt. In some cases, herpes has been seen to cause vaginal or penile discharge that has a slight odor.

What causes BV?

Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is an infection of the vagina that’s caused by an imbalance between the different types of bacteria in the vagina. It’s often caused by gardnerella vaginalis, which is the most common type of bacteria in the vagina. Such imbalances of bacteria are caused by activities that disrupt the pH balance of the vagina, such as unprotected sex or douching. While BV is not a sexually transmitted infection, semen can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina, which is why unprotected vaginal sex is often seen as a precursor to BV.

Can you have penile discharge without having an STD?

Most instances of discharge from the tip of the penis are caused by sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, but STDs are not the sole cause of penile discharge. Urinary tract infections, which more frequently impact women, can cause men to experience urethritis, which can lead to discharge. Other causes include prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, and balanitis, or inflammation of the foreskin.

What infections are most likely to cause vaginal discharge?

Most vaginal discharge is normal, but when discharge changes in volume, appearance or scent, often an infection is the culprit. A few sexually transmitted diseases, as well as at least two infections that are often mistaken for STDs, are known to cause vaginal discharge. Bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection of the vagina, is a frequent cause of vaginal discharge, as are yeast infections. Both are frequently mistaken for sexually transmitted diseases. There are some STDs that cause vaginal discharge, including gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis, or trich. In some cases, herpes can cause vaginal discharge, though that’s less common.

When should I be worried about genital discharge?

For men, anytime you’re experiencing unexpected discharge from your penis, it’s likely a cause for concern. That’s because such discharge is almost always a sign of a sexually transmitted disease, infection or other underlying issue with the reproductive organs. For women, vaginal discharge is normal and frequent and not usually a cause for concern. But when the normal discharge you experience changes in volume, regularity, appearance or scent, this is often a signal that you’ve contracted an STD, the pH balance of your vagina has been disturbed or you’re experiencing some other infection or disease of the reproductive system. For both men and women, when this discharge occurs not long after unprotected sex, the chances for a positive STD test may be elevated.