What Are the Common Causes of Yellow Pus? (with pictures)

Synthia L. Rose
Synthia L. Rose
An ingrown hair with yellow pus.
An ingrown hair with yellow pus.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), pyogenic bacteria and certain fungal infections commonly cause yellow pus. The pus, created when malicious bacteria release enzymes that destroy and invade proteins in the body, can exude directly from infected skin and membranes or be contained inside an abscess or pustule. Types of infections that can cause yellow pus include strep throat, staph, purulent conjunctivitis and paronychia. This pus is contagious and contains an abundance of leukocytes, or white blood cells, that have mixed with malicious bacteria in an attempt to halt the infection.

A diagram showing different types of white blood cells. Pus is mostly made up of dead white blood cells.
A diagram showing different types of white blood cells. Pus is mostly made up of dead white blood cells.

Gonorrhea is the main STD likely to generate yellow pus on or inside the genitalia. The head of the penis, the urethra, and the cervix are usually the site of infection and the locations that harbor the greatest amount of pus. Often this pus is discharged during urination, which can be accompanied by sharp pain. Antibiotics are the leading treatment for gonorrhea; once the bacteria are treated, the pus dissipates.

Antibiotics are an important course of treatment for conditions that display symptoms of yellow pus.
Antibiotics are an important course of treatment for conditions that display symptoms of yellow pus.

Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by the streptococcus bacterium of the Group A variety. It results in yellow pus at the back of the throat and on or between the tonsils. This pus is generally accompanied by swelling in the throat or lymph nodes as well as painful swallowing; fever or chills are also possible. Antibiotics are generally effective in killing the bacteria thriving inside the pus and ending the strep throat infection. In addition to strep, bacteria causing the common cold can also generate yellow pus in the throat.

Yellow pus is a typical symptom of purulent conjunctivitis.
Yellow pus is a typical symptom of purulent conjunctivitis.

Infections caused by regular and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) create lesions and craters on the skin that brim with yellow pus as bacteria eat away at the flesh. Often lesions appear in clusters. Normally acquired through hospital exposure, staph infections can occasionally be contracted from microflora at home or in community facilities. Regular staph can be treated with methicillin, but MRSA requires stronger and ongoing antibiotic therapy.

The head of the penis and the urethra will harbor the most pus if infected with gonorrhea.
The head of the penis and the urethra will harbor the most pus if infected with gonorrhea.

Yellow pus is typical during an eye infection known as purulent conjunctivitis. During such an infection, the membrane covering the eyeball takes on a pink or red tinge and can ooze yellow pus that cakes or crusts at the corners of the eye. This illness generally strikes children and is typically treated with eye drops containing azithromycin.

Paronychia is a fungal infection that afflicts fingernails and toenails, causing pus to accumulate underneath the nail. The cuticles and surrounding flesh generally become red, sore and inflamed as pus spills onto the cuticle from under the nail. Surgical drainage or the application of antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, is a typical treatment for this condition.

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

Last week, I noticed a yellow discharge with a foul odor during urination. I didn't want to wait so I made an appointment with my doctor. They took urine and blood samples from me. Thankfully, it turned out to be just a urinary tract infection. I'm on my last day of antibiotics ad the discharge is already gone. I think I may have gotten the UTI from public bathrooms. I'm going to be more careful from now on.

discographer

@ZipLine-- Yes, pimples and blisters are infected and they may have clear or yellow colored pus.

If there is pus, this means that there is an infection. Pimples and blisters from ingrown hairs are an accumulation of bacteria, oil and dead skin cells. Pus also contains macrophages. These are cells that fight infection. If the infection is not very serious, it's usually clear or yellow which means that there is an infection, but the number of bacteria and macrophages aren't too high. Green pus on the other hand means that the infection is more serious. The green color comes from an abundance of macrophages that are trying to get rid of the bacteria.

Pimples and blisters are actually treated with antibiotic cream. After a pimple drains, you should wash it with soap and water and apply antibiotic cream on it. Oral antibiotics are reserved for more serious infections. For example, those with chronic cystic acne may use oral antibiotics.

ZipLine

Why do pimples and blisters have yellow pus? Are they infected? Why don't we use antibiotics for them then?

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    • An ingrown hair with yellow pus.
      An ingrown hair with yellow pus.
    • A diagram showing different types of white blood cells. Pus is mostly made up of dead white blood cells.
      A diagram showing different types of white blood cells. Pus is mostly made up of dead white blood cells.
    • Antibiotics are an important course of treatment for conditions that display symptoms of yellow pus.
      Antibiotics are an important course of treatment for conditions that display symptoms of yellow pus.
    • Yellow pus is a typical symptom of purulent conjunctivitis.
      Yellow pus is a typical symptom of purulent conjunctivitis.
    • The head of the penis and the urethra will harbor the most pus if infected with gonorrhea.
      The head of the penis and the urethra will harbor the most pus if infected with gonorrhea.
    • A strep throat infection can cause yellow pus in the throat.
      A strep throat infection can cause yellow pus in the throat.