A certain amount of vaginal discharge (fluid that flows out the vaginal opening) other than the expected vaginal bleeding at menstruation is normal. The vaginal walls and uterine cervix contain glands that produce a small amount of fluid that helps to keep the vagina clean. This normal fluid is usually thin and clear or milky white and does not have an unpleasant smell. Vaginal discharge is thicker at specific times of the menstrual cycle (at the time of ovulation), during breastfeeding, or during sexual arousal. This temporary thickening of the vaginal discharge is normal and is not associated with the symptoms and signs of vaginal infection.
An increase in the amount of vaginal discharge, an abnormal odor or consistency of the fluid, or pain, itching, or burning that accompanies vaginal discharge can all be symptoms or signs of infection or other more serious disorders. Vaginitis, including bacterial vaginitis or candidiasis, can lead to changes in the appearance of the discharge. It can appear cloudy, bloody, white, yellow, or green and may be bloody in some cases.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
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Other Causes of Vaginal Discharge
- Atrophic Vaginitis
- Cervical Polyp
- Foreign Body (Forgotten Tampon)
- Hormonal Changes
- Overgrow normal bacteria in the vagina
- Chemicals found in detergents, softeners, ointments, creams, and contraceptive foams, which may irritate the skin around vagina
Examples of Medications for Vaginal Discharge
- azithromycin (Zithromax, Zithromax Z-Pak, Zithromax Tri-Pak, Zmax)
- clindamycin phosphate vaginal cream, Cleocin, Clindesse
- Diflucan (fluconazole)
- metronidazole (Flagyl, Flagyl ER) Antibiotic
- miconazole, Monistat, M-Zole, Micatin
- nystatin/metronidazole-vaginal cream
- nystatin/metronidazole-vaginal insert
- terconazole, Terazol, Zazole
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