What is vaginal discharge?

Many women have a normal vaginal discharge. It is typically clear or whitish and does not have much of an odor. Changes in the color, odor, or texture of the discharge may indicate that an infection is present, although some variation throughout the menstrual cycle is common. Infections may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as itching, burning, discomfort or spotting.

Sexually transmitted infections are common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge. Trichomoniasis often results in a discharge that is yellow-green and frothy and has a bad smell. Gonorrhea and, less commonly, Chlamydia, may cause a yellowish or cloudy discharge. Bacterial vaginosis tends to cause a whitish-gray or yellowish discharge that smells fishy.

Yeast infections also produce a vaginal discharge. It tends to be thick and white and is sometimes described as having a cottage cheese-like texture. Other causes of vaginal discharge include foreign bodies in the vagina, such as an old tampon, abnormal bleeding or irregular menstrual bleeding, and cervical or vaginal cancer.

The treatment of abnormal vaginal discharge is based on the cause. Trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and bacterial vaginosis are all treatable with antibiotics, and antifungal medications can cure yeast infections. If a foreign body is present, your health care provider will remove it and may prescribe antibiotics to treat any potential infection. Treatment of abnormal bleeding or irregular periods depends on the cause, and cancer treatments depend on the type and stage of the cancer.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have excessive vaginal bleeding, high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), severe abdominal or pelvic pain, change in mental status, confusion, severe nausea and vomiting, or a weak pulse. Immediate medical care is also needed if you develop vaginal bleeding when you might be pregnant.

If you have a vaginal discharge that seems abnormal to you or that is accompanied by other symptoms that cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Conditions that cause vaginal discharge can cause other genital symptoms and may affect other body systems.... Read more about vaginal dischargesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes vaginal discharge?

Many women have a normal, clear or whitish vaginal discharge that does not have much of an odor. Changes in the color, odor or texture of the discharge may indicate that an infection is present, although some variation through the menstrual cycle is common. Sexually transmitted infections are common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge, as are yeast infections. Other causes include foreign bodies in the vagina, abnormal bleeding or irregular menstrual bleeding, and cervical or vaginal cancer.... Read more about vaginal dischargecauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.