Why Does My Penis Smell Fishy?

Certain body odor smells are normal, including sweat and some penile discharge. However, if the odor is strong or can’t be washed away, it may indicate a health issue.

In most cases, a fishy smell from the penis is caused by smegma—an accumulation of dead skin cells and bodily fluids. It’s also a possible sign of STIs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Bacterial Infections

A smelly penis can be caused by a number of infections including fungal (like yeast) or bacterial. It is important that a man seeks medical attention for a foul or fishy odor from the groin, even if it is mild. A doctor can prescribe antifungal or antibiotic medications that can help eliminate the infection and the odor.

A yeast infection, also known as thrush, happens when a fungus overtakes the area where the foreskin and glans meet. It can be spread through unprotected sex or contact with another person that has a yeast infection. This condition can be more common in women but men can develop a yeast infection as well. Symptoms of a yeast infection include a thick discharge that looks like cottage cheese and a vinegary or fishy odor.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection that can be spread through unprotected genital contact. It is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria and can be contracted by touching an infected person, kissing, or having unprotected sex. Symptoms of gonorrhea can include a fishy odor from the groin and pain or tingling when you pee.

A urinary tract infection can cause a fishy odor from the glans and is usually caused by Escherichia coli bacterium. A urinary tract infection can be treated with antibiotics and avoiding foods that are high in sugar.

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Balanitis

A buildup of smegma (debris from a penis’s foreskin that isn’t washed often enough) can cause an unpleasant odor. This problem is more common in boys under the age of four because their foreskin tends to be tighter, and it can be difficult to get it completely clean. This condition can also happen to uncircumcised men who don’t regularly wash their glans and foreskin.

In some cases, a smegma buildup can lead to a yeast infection called candida balanitis, which may resemble thrush. In addition to the bad odor, candida balanitis can cause itching, irritation and pain in the area.

Over-the-counter ointments that are formulated to treat fungal infections can often be used to get rid of candida balanitis. However, if symptoms don’t improve, a doctor should be consulted for additional treatment options.

While balanitis isn’t a serious health issue, it can be embarrassing for some people. To avoid this, it is recommended that anyone with this condition wash their glans and foreskin thoroughly every day and avoid harsh soaps that could irritate the area. It’s also important to keep the genital area dry, especially after using the bathroom. If you have a weakened immune system, balanitis can easily turn into a more serious condition such as Kaposi sarcoma or extramammary Paget’s disease. If this happens, it’s a good idea to visit a urologist for a medical assessment.

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STIs

While it is normal for certain body odors to exist, if your penis smell fishy, this is a sign that something is wrong. The smell could be due to sweat build-up, lack of ventilation, poor hygiene, STIs, or a build-up of smegma. Using a gentle soap with warm water can help remove the smell and keep the area clean. It is recommended to wash the groin area once or twice a day.

Uncircumcised men may develop a smegma of oil, dead skin cells, and moisture in their foreskin that can cause the smell. This is usually caused by a bacteria, and can be treated by washing the area with antibacterial soap and lukewarm water.

If you think you or your boyfriend may have an STI, you should speak to a health care professional immediately. They can take a sample of your urine or vaginal fluid to diagnose the problem. They can also talk to you about safe sex and ways you and your partner can avoid STIs.

The two STIs most likely to make your penis smell are chlamydia and gonorrhea. These infections are transmitted through sexual contact without a condom, and can be very dangerous if left untreated. If you have a chlamydia or gonorrhea infection, seek medical attention and abstain from sexual activity until the condition is treated.

NGU

Men with uncircumcised penises can develop a fishy odor when they have a non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU). This is an infection of the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. Non-gonococcal urethritis can be caused by a variety of germs, including Chlamydia, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Mycoplasma genitalium, and Gardnerella vaginalis. This infection is most common in men because the germs that cause it are sexually transmitted and because the urethra is more likely to be exposed during sex. Men between the ages of 15 and 30 who have multiple sex partners are especially at risk for this infection.

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The NGU germs can cause similar symptoms to those of gonorrhea, so it is important that anyone who has these symptoms see a doctor right away. The doctor will take a swab from the end of the urethra and look at it under a microscope to find out what germs are causing the NGU. Half of the time, the NGU is caused by Chlamydia, and the other half is caused by Mycoplasma genitalium or trichomoniasis.

Once the germs that are causing NGU are identified and treated, they should not return. That is why it is so important to use condoms or other barrier methods during oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Also, people with chlamydia or Mycoplasma genitalium should always have regular sexual partners who are also tested and treated for these infections.

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