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.
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Picture of Chancroid
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi. See a picture of Chancroid and learn more...
Picture of The Clap (Gonorrhea)
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoea. See a picture of The Clap (Gonorrhea) and...
STD Diagnosis, Images, Symptoms, Treatment
Learn about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including symptoms, signs, diagnosis, and treatment options. Get more...
STD Quiz: Symptoms, Testing & List
There are more sexually transmitted diseases than just the ones you've heard of. Find out what you've been missing with the STD...
Yeast Infection Quiz: Symptoms & Treatment
How much do you know about vaginal yeast infections? Learn the causes, symptoms, and treatments of a yeast infection with the...
Causes of Vaginal Discharge
Bacterial vaginosis is an abnormal vaginal condition with signs and symptoms of vaginal discharge, vaginal odor, and vaginal...
Cervical Cancer (Cancer of the Cervix)
Cervical cancer is cancer of the entrance to the womb (uterus). Regular pelvic exams and Pap testing can detect precancerous...
Chlamydia in Women (Symptoms and Cures)
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. Signs and symptoms of chlamydia, a bacterial infection,...
Early Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs
Pregnancy symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and not all women experience the same symptoms. When women do experience...
Genital Warts (HPV) Infection in Women
Genital warts is a sexually transmitted infection (STI, STD) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is the most common STD...
Gonorrhea In Women
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection transmitted during sexual contact. In women, symptoms include a yellow vaginal discharge,...
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the most common and serious complication of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), aside from...
Pinworms (Infection in Children and Adults, Enterobiasis)
Pinworm infection is an intestinal infection caused by a pinworm, seatworm, or threadworm. Female pinworms leave the intestine...
Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women (STD)
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States. STDs can be spread...
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a parasite passed from person to person. Trichomoniasis can be...
Though uterine cancer's cause is unknown, there are many factors that will put a woman at risk, including being over age 50,...
Normal vaginal bleeding (menorrhea) occurs through the process of menstruation. Abnormal vaginal bleeding in women who are...
Vaginal cancer is fairly uncommon. There are two types of vaginal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Risk...
Yeast Infection (in Women and Men)
Vaginal yeast infections in women are caused by an organism called Candida albicans. Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection...
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
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter