Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Vaginal discharge

Table of Contents

Definition

Vaginal discharge refers to secretions from the vagina. Such discharge can vary in:

  • Consistency (thick, pasty, thin)
  • Color (clear, cloudy, white, yellow, green)
  • Smell (normal, odorless, bad odor)

Alternative Names

Discharge from the vagina


Considerations

Having some amount of vaginal discharge is normal, especially if you are of childbearing age. Glands in the cervix produce a clear mucus. These secretions may turn white or yellow when exposed to the air. These are normal variations.

The amount of mucus produced by the cervical glands varies throughout the menstrual cycle. This is normal and depends on the amount of estrogen circulating in your body. It is also normal for the walls of the vagina to release some secretions. The amount depends on hormone levels in the body.

Vaginal discharge that suddenly differs in color, odor, or consistency, or significantly increases or decreases in amount, may indicate an underlying problem like an infection.


Common Causes

The following situations can increase the amount of normal vaginal discharge:

  • Emotional stress
  • Ovulation (the production and release of an egg from your ovary in the middle of your menstrual cycle)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual excitement

Abnormal vaginal discharge may be due to:

  • Atrophic vaginitis (seen in women who have gone through menopause and have low estrogen levels)
  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV) -- Bacteria that normally live in the vagina overgrow, causing a grey discharge and fishy odor that worsen after sexual intercourse. BV is usually not sexually transmitted.
  • Cervical or vaginal cancer (rarely a cause of excess discharge)
  • Chlamydia
  • Desquamative vaginitis and lichen planus
  • Forgotten tampon or foreign body
  • Gonorrhea
  • Other infections and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Vaginal yeast infection


Review Date: 11/01/2009
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, WA; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org)