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.
Symptoms or signs of vaginal infection or other more serious disorders include:
- 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.
Vaginitis, including bacterial vaginitis or candidiasis, can lead to changes in the appearance of the discharge, which can appear:
- yellow, or
- green, and
- may be bloody in some cases.
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
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Causes of Vaginal Discharge
24 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 pregnancy symptoms they may include symptoms include missed menstrual period, mood changes, headaches, lower back pain, fatigue, nausea, breast tenderness, and heartburn. Signs and symptoms in late pregnancy include leg swelling and shortness of breath. Options for relief of pregnancy symptoms include exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial vaginosis is an abnormal vaginal condition with signs and symptoms of vaginal discharge, vaginal odor, and vaginal pain. It results from an overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina.
Can Bacterial Vaginosis Clear Up on Its Own?
Learn what medical treatments can ease your bacterial vaginosis symptoms and help you manage this condition.
Cervical Cancer (Cancer of the Cervix)
Cervical cancer is cancer of the entrance to the womb (uterus) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Regular pelvic exams, Pap testing, and screening can detect precancerous changes in the cervix. Cervical cancer can be prevented by a vaccine. The most common signs and symptoms are an increase in vaginal discharge, painful sex, and postmenopausal bleeding. The prognosis and survival rate depend upon the stage at which the cancer was diagnosed.
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. Signs and symptoms of chlamydia, a bacterial infection, include vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, burning with urination, blood in the urine, and feelings of urinary urgency and frequency. Untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. Chlamydia is diagnosed with a culture or by identification of the genetic material of the bacteria. Treatment of chlamydia consists of a course of antibiotics.
Genital Warts (HPV) Infection in Women
Genital warts is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts look like raised, flesh-colored lumps. Learn about symptoms, transmission, and treatment.
Gonorrhea In Women
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection transmitted during sexual contact. In women, symptoms include a yellow vaginal discharge, burning or frequent urination, and redness, swelling, burning, and itching of the vaginal area. Gonorrhea can be treated with injectable (penicillin) or oral medications.
How Can I Treat Vaginitis at Home?
What Is Vaginitis? Learn whether you need antibiotics and what other treatments can help to relieve your symptoms.
How Do You Get Bacterial Vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is a common issue that affects many women. Learn the signs of bacterial vaginosis, what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.
Is Chlamydia Contagious?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is contagious. Chlaymida is spread through sexual contact. (You cannot get chlamyidia from kissing or sharing utensils or drinks.) Chlamydia is the most common STD in the U.S. The incubation period for chlamydia ranges from days to months, and the contagious period ends seven days after patients begin treatment. Chlamydia signs and symptoms may include painful urination, rectal irritation (proctitis), eye infections, and infertility. Women can also develop chronic pelvic pain, salpingitis, and endometritis.
Is It Normal to Have Discharge After Sex?
What is vaginal discharge? Learn the signs of vaginal discharge and what to do if you experience it.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the most common and serious complication of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), aside from AIDS, among women. The signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease include: fever, vaginal discharge with a foul odor, abdominal pain, including pain during intercourse, and irregular vaginal bleeding. Pelvic inflammatory disease can scar the Fallopian tubes, ovaries, and related structures and lead to ectopic pregnancies, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and other serious consequences. Pelvic inflammatory disease treatment includes several types of antibiotics.
Pinworms (Enterobiasis) in Kids and Adults
Pinworm infection is an intestinal infection caused by a pinworm, seatworm, or threadworm. Female pinworms leave the intestine through the ankus and deposit eggs on the skin around the anus while a person is asleep. Pinworm infection is the most common worm infection in the U.S. Symptoms include anal itching or vaginal itching. Pinworm infection is generally spread by inadequate handwashing from infected persons. Treatment is effective after a diagnosis is made with a pinworm test.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in women include gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, and HPV infection (genital warts). Learn about types, symptoms, and treatment.
Trichomoniasis is a parasitic infection that also is an STD. Symptoms include yellow, green, or gray vaginal discharge, strong vaginal odor, painful sex or urination, and abdominal pain.
Though uterine cancer's cause is unknown, there are many factors that will put a woman at risk, including being over age 50, having endometrial hyperplasia, using hormone replacement therapy, obesity, using tamoxifen, being Caucasian, and/or having colorectal cancer. Symptoms and signs of cancer of the uterus (endometrial cancer) include abnormal vaginal bleeding, painful urination, painful intercourse, and pelvic pain. Treatment depends on staging and may include radiation therapy or hormone therapy.
Normal vaginal bleeding (menorrhea) occurs through the process of menstruation. Abnormal vaginal bleeding in women who are ovulating regularly most commonly involves excessive, frequent, irregular, or decreased bleeding. Causes of abnormal may arise from a variety of conditions that may include, uterine fibroids, IUDs, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, lupus, STDs, pelvic inflammatory disease, emotional stress, anorexia nervosa, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), cancers, early pregnancy.
Vaginal cancer is fairly uncommon. There are two types of vaginal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Risk factors include being 60 or older, exposure to DES while in the womb, HPV infection, and having a history of abnormal cervical cells. Painful intercourse, pelvic pain, vaginal lumps, and abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge are all symptoms of vaginal cancer. Treatment depends upon the stage of the vaginal cancer and may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and the use of radiosensitizers.
Vaginal Yeast Infection
Vaginal yeast infections in women are caused by an organism called Candida albicans. Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include vaginal pain with urination, vaginal discharge, odor, and itching. Treatment is generally OTC medications. A man can contract a yeast infection from his female sexual partner. Symptoms of a yeast infection in men include penile itching. Treatment is with oral or topical medication.
What Are Causes of Yellow Discharge and What Does It Mean?
What is yellow discharge, and what could it mean? Learn the common causes of yellow discharge and when it is necessary to see your doctor for treatment. Normal vaginal discharge is typically thin, clear or white. Vaginal discharge during pregnancy that is yellow, green, gray, red or frothy could be a sign of infection and may require medical treatment.
What Does It Mean If I’m Having a Lot of Vaginal Discharge?
It's normal for women to have some amount of vaginal discharge. Learn more about what it can mean if you have more vaginal discharge than usual or if your discharge has an unusual appearance.
What Is the Difference Between Vaginitis and Vaginosis?
Learn the differences between vaginitis and vaginosis and how they are diagnosed and treated.
Yeast Infection vs. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV) both cause vaginal discharge. Yeast infection discharge is thick, white, and had a cottage cheese consistency. BV discharge is whitish-gray and is thinner. Vaginal odor, irritation, and pain may also be present. Treatment of yeast infections includes over-the-counter and prescription antifungals. BV treatment involves antibiotics.
Yeast Infection vs. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Candida albicans typically causes vaginal yeast infections. Bacterial infections typically cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). Thick white cottage-cheese like vaginal discharge characterizes vaginal yeast infections. Painful, frequent urination characterize urinary tract infections. Antifungal medications treat yeast infections while prescription antibiotics treat UTIs.
Examples of Medications for Vaginal Discharge
- azithromycin (Zithromax): For COVID-19
- clindamycin vaginal cream (Cleocin, Clindesse)
- Diflucan (fluconazole)
- Metrogel (metronidazole) Side Effects, Warnings, and Interactions
- metronidazole (Flagyl, Flagyl ER) Antibiotic
- miconazole, Monistat, M-Zole, Micatin
- nystatin/metronidazole-vaginal cream
- nystatin/metronidazole-vaginal insert
- Side Effects of Terazol (terconazole)
- Solosec (secnidazole)
- terconazole (Terazol, Zazole)
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