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Vaginal Discharge Types, Causes, and Treatment

Facts about and Definition of Vaginal Discharge

  • Vaginal discharge is fluid that exits from the vaginal opening.
  • Some vaginal discharge is normal when infection is present there may be an increase in quantity or change in the appearance of vaginal discharge.
  • Bacterial vaginosis, a condition of unbalanced overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria, is another common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • Infections such as trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia (all STDs); and yeast infection can all cause vaginal discharge.
  • Vaginal discharge can be associated with other symptoms such as burning or itching.
  • Antibiotics are given for infections that cause vaginal discharge. The choice of antibiotic depends upon the specific infection.
  • Many causes of vaginal discharge can recur after successful treatment.

What Is Vaginal Discharge?

Vaginal discharge is a fluid or semisolid substance that flows out of the vaginal opening. Most women have vaginal discharge to some extent, and a small amount of vaginal discharge is a reflection of the body's normal cleansing process. The amount and type of vaginal discharge also varies among women and with the woman's menstrual cycle. A change in vaginal discharge (such as an abnormal odor or color or increase in amount), or the presence of vaginal discharge associated with irritation or other uncomfortable symptoms, can signal that an infection is present.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Vaginal Discharge?

Vaginal discharge may range in color from clear to gray, yellow, greenish, or milky-white and may have an unpleasant smell. The symptoms and character of vaginal discharge depend upon the specific condition that is the cause of the discharge.

  1. Bacterial vaginosis: Not all women with bacterial vaginosis will have symptoms, but bacterial vaginosis typically produces a discharge that is thin and grayish-white in color. It is usually accompanied by a foul, fishy smell.
  2. Trichomonas: Trichomonas infection produces a frothy, yellow-green vaginal discharge with a strong odor. Associated symptoms can include discomfort during intercourse and urination, as well as irritation and itching of the female genital area.
  3. Gonorrhea: Gonorrhea may not produce symptoms in up to half of infected women, but it can also cause burning with urination or frequent urination, a yellowish vaginal discharge, redness and swelling of the genitals, and a burning or itching of the vaginal area.
  4. Chlamydia: Like gonorrhea, Chlamydia infection may not produce symptoms in many women. Others may experience increased vaginal discharge as well as the symptoms of a urinary tract infection if the urethra is involved.
  5. Vaginal yeast infection: A vaginal yeast infection is usually associated with a thick, white vaginal discharge that may have the texture of cottage cheese. The discharge is generally odorless. Other symptoms can include burning, soreness, and pain during urination or sexual intercourse.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/18/2017

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Vaginal Yeast Infection Symptoms

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