Producing milky white discharge is the body’s way of cleaning sexual organs, keeping them healthy and functioning well. In some cases, however, discharge from the vagina or penis can be a signal that something else is going on inside the body.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the vagina begins producing discharge at puberty.
Made mostly of water and microorganisms, this discharge helps move dead cells from the vaginal lining. Throughout a female’s menstrual cycle, the amount and consistency of this discharge may change.
For males, discharge typically appears during preejaculation and ejaculation.
However, milky white discharge can indicate that a person needs to see a healthcare professional.
This article will look at some potential causes of milky white discharge by biological sex.
Milky white discharge is a typical part of the menstrual cycle. According to Planned Parenthood, before ovulation occurs, a female’s discharge can be white and cloudy. At this time, it can also feel sticky or tacky.
However, white discharge may also signal a vaginal infection or pregnancy.
A yeast infection occurs due to an overgrowth of yeast called Candida albicans in the vagina.
Symptoms of a yeast infection can include:
- itching in the vaginal area
- a burning sensation in the vaginal area
- a whitish coating in the vaginal lining
Females can take antifungal medications to treat a yeast infection. This medication comes in the form of a suppository, a cream, or a pill.
It is important to note that the oral pill is not suitable for those who are pregnant.
According to the ACOG, changes during pregnancy can increase the amount of vaginal discharge a female experiences. This is due to hormonal changes.
During pregnancy, it is typical to have milky white discharge. This is called leukorrhea.
Females may also experience more vaginal infections during pregnancy.
They should call a doctor if their discharge is strong-smelling or green, brown, or yellow. They should also seek medical advice if their vagina feels itchy or sore, or if they experience pain during urination.
Other than preejaculate and ejaculate, discharge from the penis may signal that a male should see a doctor. It is usually due to a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Urethritis refers to inflammation of the urethra. This is the tube that transports urine from the bladder to the penis during urination.
If the cause is due to a bacterial infection, the discharge may be white and cloudy.
A male may also notice that the end of their penis is painful, itchy, or swollen.
According to American Family Physician, a doctor will typically prescribe antibiotics. They may also recommend that a male undergoes testing for STIs.
During treatment, the male should abstain from sexual intercourse for at least 1 week. The doctor may also encourage them to refrain from:
- eating spicy foods
- using scented soaps
- engaging in vigorous or frequent masturbation
Gonorrhea is a bacterial STI that causes painful urination and pus-filled discharge. The color of the discharge can be white, yellow, or green.
Other symptoms in males include painful urination and painful or swollen testicles.
Gonorrhea is treatable using antibiotics.
Chlamydia is a bacterial STI. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is the most frequently reported bacterial STI in the United States.
Chlamydia causes milky white discharge from the penis, along with painful urination.
Epididymitis, which refers to the painful swelling of the epididymis (the tube at the back of the testicle), can occur in a minority of males with chlamydia.
Testicular pain, tenderness, and swelling also occur in a minority of males with chlamydia.
Similarly to gonorrhea, a person can take antibiotics to treat chlamydia.
People should also abstain from sexual intercourse for 7 days. Sexual partners of those with chlamydia should also receive treatment.
Trichomoniasis can cause white discharge in both males and females.
According to the CDC, trichomoniasis is a very common STI, affecting roughly 3.7 million people in the U.S.
Although 70% of people do not show any symptoms, when the symptoms do appear, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation.
Symptoms in females include:
- itching, burning, and soreness of the genitals
- painful urination
- a change in vaginal discharge
Females can also experience an increase in the volume of discharge, and it can be white, clear, yellow, or green. It may also give off a fishy smell.
Symptoms in males include:
- itching and irritation inside the penis
- burning after ejaculation or urination
- discharge from the penis
According to the National Health Service (NHS), the discharge can be thin and white. The head of the penis or foreskin may also be swollen and sore.
However, it is possible to contract the infection again. All sex partners should receive treatment at the same time and abstain from sexual intercourse until all symptoms have gone.
People should undergo testing again after 3 months.
Milky white discharge is typical for females from puberty to menopause and for males during preejaculation and ejaculation.
However, if there is any change in the color, consistency, or odor of the discharge, a person may want to schedule a visit to their doctor.
Milky white discharge in females helps clean the sexual organs and keep them healthy. It is also not a cause for concern for males when it appears during preejaculation and ejaculation.
Sometimes, however, discharge from the vagina or penis can be a symptom of an underlying infection.
Although most females experience some vaginal discharge throughout the month due to hormonal changes, it may be an indication of pregnancy or an infection.
If a person notices a change in the amount, type, or smell of their normal discharge, they may want to schedule an appointment with a doctor.