Vaginal Discharge

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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.

Patients may experience the related symptoms of Vaginal Bleeding, Vaginal Dryness, and/or Vaginal Itching.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/7/2014

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REFERENCE:

Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.

Causes of Vaginal Discharge
    • Bacterial Vaginosis Bacterial vaginosis is an imbalance or overgrowth of certain types of bacteria within the vagina. Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis...learn more »
      In This Article
      Bacterial Vaginosis Article
      • What is bacterial vaginosis?
      • What is the cause of bacterial vaginosis?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of bacterial vaginosis?
      • What are the complications of bacterial vaginosis?
      • How is bacterial vaginosis diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for bacterial vaginosis?
      • What is the prognosis (outlook) for bacterial vaginosis?
      • Can bacterial vaginosis be prevented?
    • Cervical Cancer Cervical cancer is cancer of the entrance to the womb (uterus). Regular pelvic exams and Pap testing can detect precancerous...learn more »
      In This Article
      Cervical Cancer Article
      • Cervical cancer facts*
      • What is the cervix?
      • What is cancer?
      • What are the risk factors and causes of cervical cancer?
      • What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
      • How is cervical cancer diagnosed?
      • How is staging of cervical cancer determined?
      • What is the treatment for cervical cancer?
      • What are methods of treatment for cervical cancer?
      • How do I go about getting a second opinion?
      • What follow-up care is involved after cervical cancer treatment?
      • What support, research, and clinical trials information is available for cervical cancer patients?
    • Chlamydia in Women Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. Signs and symptoms of chlamydia, a bacterial infection,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Chlamydia in Women Article
      • What is chlamydia?
      • What causes chlamydia?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of chlamydia?
      • How is chlamydia diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for chlamydia?
      • What is the prognosis for chlamydia?
      • Can chlamydia be prevented?
    • Genital Warts (HPV) Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. HPV is primarily transmitted...learn more »
      In This Article
      Genital Warts (HPV) Article
      • Genital warts (HPV) facts
      • What are human papillomaviruses (HPVs)?
      • How common is HPV infection?
      • What are the symptoms of genital warts?
      • How is HPV infection diagnosed?
      • Is there a DNA test for types of HPV infection?
      • How are genital warts diagnosed?
      • How is infection with HPV treated?
      • External genital warts
      • Precancerous changes (dysplasia) of the uterine cervix
      • Can HPV infection be prevented?
      • What should one do if exposed to a person with genital warts?
    • Gonorrhea In Women Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection transmitted during sexual contact. In women, symptoms include a yellow vaginal discharge,...learn more »
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      Gonorrhea In Women Article
      • Gonorrhea facts
      • What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
      • What is gonorrhea?
      • What are the symptoms of gonorrhea?
      • How is gonorrhea diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for gonorrhea?
    • Menopause Menopause is the time in a woman's life when menstrual periods permanently stop, also called the "change of life." Menopause...learn more »
      In This Article
      Menopause Article
      • Menopause facts
      • What is menopause?
      • At what age does a woman typically reach menopause?
      • What conditions can affect the timing of menopause?
      • What are the symptoms of menopause?
      • What are the complications and effects of menopause on chronic medical conditions?
      • Are hormone levels or other blood tests helpful in detecting menopause?
      • What are the treatment options for the symptoms of menopause?
      • Hormone therapy for menopause
      • Other medical therapies for menopause
      • Alternative therapies for menopause
      • Non-hormone therapies for menopause
      • Lifestyle factors in managing menopause symptoms
    • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the most common and serious complication of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), aside from...learn more »
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      Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Article
      • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) facts*
      • What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?
      • What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?
      • How common is pelvic inflammatory disease?
      • Are some women more likely to get pelvic inflammatory disease?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease?
      • How is pelvic inflammatory disease diagnosed?
      • How is pelvic inflammatory disease treated?
      • What if my partner is infected with pelvic inflammatory disease?
      • My friend was told she can't get pregnant because she has PID. Is this true?
      • How can I keep myself from getting PID?
      • What should I do if I think I have an STI (sexually transmitted disease)?
    • Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women (STDs) Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are infections that are transmitted during any type of sexual exposure, including...learn more »
      In This Article
      Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women (STDs) Article
      • What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs, formerly referred to as sexually transmitted infections or STIs)?
      • Gonorrhea
      • Chlamydia
      • Syphilis
      • Genital Herpes
      • Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs) and Genital Warts
      • Chancroid
      • Ectoparasitic Infections
      • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
      • Hepatitis B
      • Hepatitis C
      • Conclusions
    • Trichomoniasis (Vaginal Infection) Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a parasite passed from person to person. Trichomoniasis can be...learn more »
      In This Article
      Trichomoniasis (Vaginal Infection) Article
      • Trichomoniasis facts*
      • What is trichomoniasis and how do you get it?
      • What are the symptoms of trichomoniasis?
      • Is there a test for trichomoniasis?
      • How is trichomoniasis treated?
      • What happens if I don't get treated?
      • Should I tell my partner if I have trichomoniasis?
      • Does trichomoniasis cause problems during pregnancy?
      • How is trichomoniasis prevented?
    • Vaginal Bleeding Normal vaginal bleeding (menorrhea) occurs through the process of menstruation. Abnormal vaginal bleeding in women who are...learn more »
      In This Article
      Vaginal Bleeding Article
      • Vaginal bleeding facts
      • What is normal vaginal bleeding?
      • What is abnormal vaginal bleeding?
      • What conditions cause abnormal vaginal bleeding in women who are ovulating regularly?
      • What conditions cause abnormal vaginal bleeding in women who are not ovulating regularly or vaginal bleeding after menopause?
      • What causes abnormal vaginal bleeding during or after sexual intercourse?
      • What causes abnormal vaginal bleeding during pregnancy?
      • What tests are used to evaluate abnormal vaginal bleeding?
      • How is irregular or abnormal vaginal bleeding treated?
    • Vaginal Cancer Vaginal cancer is fairly uncommon. There are two types of vaginal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Risk...learn more »
      In This Article
      Vaginal Cancer Article
      • What is vaginal cancer?
      • What are causes and risk factors for vaginal cancer?
      • What are symptoms and signs of vaginal cancer?
      • What tests are used to diagnose vaginal cancer?
      • What is the prognosis for vaginal cancer?
      • How is staging determined for vaginal cancer?
      • What is the treatment for vaginal cancer?
      • Treatment options by stage
      • Treatment options for recurrent vaginal cancer
      • Where can I find more information about vaginal cancer?
    • Women's Health Women's health is an important topic area to guide a woman through the stages of her life, as well as knowing the conditions and...learn more »
      In This Article
      Women's Health Article
      • Introduction to Women's Health
      • Women's General Health and Wellness
      • Female Anatomy
      • The Female Reproductive System
      • Female Hormones
      • Diseases More Common In Women
      • Cancer In Women
      • Women's Cosmetic Concerns
      • Menstruation
      • Sexuality
      • Fertility, Birth Control and Infertility
      • Pregnancy
      • Motherhood
      • Menopause
      • The Mature Woman - Post Menopause
    • 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...learn more »
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      Yeast Infection (in Women and Men) Article
      • Vaginal yeast infection facts
      • What is a vaginal yeast infection?
      • What causes a vaginal yeast infection?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection?
      • How is a vaginal yeast infection diagnosed?
      • Are there home remedies to treat a vaginal yeast infection?
      • What over-the-counter medications are available to treat a vaginal yeast infection?
      • When are prescription medications used for a vaginal yeast infection?
      • Can a man get a yeast infection from his sexual partner?
      • What are the symptoms of a yeast infection in men?
      • What is the treatment for yeast infection in men?
      • How can vaginal yeast infections be prevented?
      • How can a man protect himself from contracting a yeast infection from his partner?
Other Causes of Vaginal Discharge
  • Atrophic Vaginitis
  • Cervical Polyp
  • Cervicitis
  • Foreign Body (Forgotten Tampon)
  • Hormonal Changes
Examples of Medications for Vaginal Discharge
  • azithromycin, Zithromax, Zmax
  • clindamycin phosphate cream - vaginal, Cleocin
  • fluconazole, Diflucan
  • metronidazole, Flagyl
  • miconazole, Monistat; Femizol; Vagistat; M-Zole; Micatin; Lotrimin
  • nystatin/metronidazole-vaginal cream
  • nystatin/metronidazole-vaginal insert
  • terconazole, Terazol, Zazole




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