Vaginal discharge is a combination of fluid and cells that are continuously released through the vagina.
Normal vaginal discharge helps keep vaginal tissues healthy, provides lubrication, and protects against infection and irritation. The amount, color, and consistency of normal vaginal discharge vary from whitish and sticky to clear and liquid, depending on the stage of the reproductive (menstrual) cycle.
Abnormal vaginal discharge (for example, discharge that has an unusual odor or appearance, or that manifests itself along with pain or itching) may indicate that something is wrong.
Most causes of abnormal vaginal discharge (such as vaginal thrush, bacterial vaginosis, or menopausal symptoms) are relatively harmless but can be uncomfortable.
Abnormal vaginal discharge may also be a symptom of certain sexually transmitted infections. Because they can expand and affect the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, and can be transmitted to sexual partners, detection and treatment of sexually transmitted infections are important.
Rarely, a bloody or brownish vaginal discharge may be the sign of cervical cancer.
Possible causes of abnormal vaginal discharge include the following:
- Causes related to infection or inflammation
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Chlamydia trachomatis
- Forgotten tampon (retained)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Vaginal Candidosis
- Certain hygienic practices, such as douching or the use of aerosols or perfumed soaps
- Cervical Cancer
- Vaginal atrophy (genitourinary menopause syndrome)
- Vaginal Cancer
- Vaginal fistula
- Only in very rare cases, vaginal discharge is a sign of cancer.
When to see a doctor
Schedule a visit with a doctor if you have the following:
- Greenish, yellowish, thick, sticky vaginal discharge
- Strong vaginal odor
- Redness, itching, burning, and irritation of the vagina or the skin surrounding the vagina and urethra (vulva)
- Bleeding or light intermenstrual bleeding not related to the period
Personal care measures in the home:
Use an over-the-counter antifungal cream if vaginal thrush is suspected.
Apply a cold pack, such as a cloth or ice pack, to relieve itching, swelling, or discomfort of the vulva.
After starting treatment, ask your partner to use a condom or wait a week for sex.
See your doctor if symptoms do not go away after about a week.