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Vaginal discharge

Vaginal dischargeVaginal discharge refers to secretions from the vagina. The discharge may be:

  • Thick, pasty, or thin
  • Clear, cloudy, bloody, white, yellow, or green
  • Odorless or have a bad odor

Itching of the skin of the vagina and the surrounding area (vulva) may be present along with vaginal discharge. It can also occur on its own.

Causes

Glands in the cervix and the walls of the vagina normally produce a clear mucus. This is very common among women of childbearing age.

  • These secretions may turn white or yellow when exposed to the air.
  • The amount of mucus produced varies during the menstrual cycle as hormone levels in the body change.

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

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

Different types of infections may cause itching or a discharge in the vagina. These include:

  • Infections spread during sexual contact. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea (GC), and trichomoniasis.
  • Vaginal yeast infection, caused by a fungus.
  • Normal bacteria that live in the vagina that overgrow, causing a gray discharge and fishy odor. This is called bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is not often spread through sexual contact.

Other causes of vaginal discharge and itching may be:

  • Menopause and low estrogen levels, which may lead to vaginal dryness and other symptoms (Atrophic vaginitis).
  • Forgotten tampon or foreign body, which may cause a foul odor.
  • Chemicals found in detergents, fabric softeners, feminine sprays, ointments, creams, douches, and contraceptive foams or jellies or creams, which may irritate the vagina or the skin around the vagina

Less common causes include:

  • Cancer of the cervix or vagina
  • Skin conditions, such as desquamative vaginitis and lichen planus

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