It is common to have vaginal discharge—the fluid that comes from the vagina. Vaginal discharge is an important way the vagina keeps itself healthy. It carries old cells and other debris out of the vagina. Normal vaginal discharge fluid is typically clear or whitish and does not have much of an odor. Normal discharge can be thin, thick, watery, sticky, or elastic. It tends to change depending on the phase of your menstrual cycle.
Changes in the color, odor, or texture of the discharge may indicate that an infection is present. Infections often cause other symptoms, such as itching, burning, discomfort or spotting (bleeding), menstrual irregularity white discharge.
Sexually transmitted infections are common abnormal vaginal discharge causes. This includes trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections also produce a vaginal discharge. Other causes include foreign objects in the vagina, such as an old tampon, abnormal bleeding, irregular menstrual bleeding, and cervical or vaginal cancer.
The treatment of abnormal vaginal discharge depends on the cause. Trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and bacterial vaginosis are all treatable with antibiotics. Antifungal medications can cure yeast infections. If a foreign object is present, your healthcare provider will remove it and may prescribe antibiotics to treat any potential infection. Treatment of abnormal bleeding or irregular periods depends on the cause.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have excessive vaginal bleeding, high fever (higher than 101°F), severe abdominal or pelvic pain, change in mental status, confusion, severe nausea, vomiting, or a weak pulse. Immediate medical care is also needed if you develop vaginal bleeding when you might be pregnant.
If you have a vaginal discharge that seems abnormal to you or that is accompanied by other symptoms that cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.
Women often associate color with types of vaginal discharge. Color can sometimes be helpful in understanding what is going on in the vagina. Vaginal discharge colors can include:
Frothy, yellowish-green vaginal discharge that has a bad smell can be a sign of trichomoniasis.
Pinkish vaginal discharge may indicate the presence of blood or irritation.
Thick and white vaginal discharge with a cottage cheese-like texture is common with a yeast infection.
The yellowish or cloudy discharge could be gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Whitish gray or yellowish discharge that smells fishy is often a sign of bacterial vaginosis.
Vaginal discharge may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder, or condition. Conditions that cause vaginal discharge can cause other genital symptoms and may affect other body systems.
Vaginal discharge may accompany other symptoms affecting the genitals and reproductive tract including:
Genital pain or burning
Pain during sexual intercourse
Swelling and redness of the genital area
Vaginal spotting or abnormal bleeding
In some cases, vaginal discharge may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for any of these life-threatening symptoms including:
Bleeding while pregnant
Change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations, and delusions
Excessive vaginal bleeding
High fever (higher than 101°F)
Severe nausea and vomiting
Severe pelvic or abdominal pain
Many women have a normal, clear, or whitish vaginal discharge that does not have much of an odor. Changes in the color, odor, or texture of the discharge may indicate that an infection is present, although some variation through the menstrual cycle is common.
Sexually transmitted infections are common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge, as are yeast infections. Other causes include foreign objects in the vagina and abnormal or irregular menstrual bleeding. Cervical or vaginal cancer are other possible causes of a change in vaginal discharge.
Vaginal discharge may be caused by infections including:
Bacterial vaginosis (imbalance of bacteria in the vagina, often involving overgrowth of the bacterium Gardnerella vaginalis)
Chlamydia (a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis)
Gonorrhea (a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae)
Trichomoniasis (a sexually transmitted disease caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis)
Yeast infections (overgrowth of yeast, commonly Candida albicans, in the vagina)
Abnormal vaginal discharge is a symptom of an underlying problem. Treatment will depend on the condition causing the discharge. For infections, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antifungals, depending on the type of microorganism.
Bacterial infections require antibiotics for treatment. Usually, you can take the antibiotics by mouth, but you may also need a vaginal cream. Sometimes, doctors may give an intramuscular shot of an antibiotic in addition to a prescription for oral antibiotics. If you have a sexually transmitted infection, it may be necessary to treat your partner or partners as well.
Fungal infections, like yeast infections, need antifungal medicines. Usually, you use these products intravaginally. They come as creams, suppositories, and tablets you place inside the vagina. There are both over-the-counter and prescription products available. Some are single-dose products, while others require multiple doses.
For both antibiotics and antifungals, it is important to finish the entire course of medication. Failing to take all the medicine as your doctor prescribes can result in the recurrence of the infection. Often, recurrent infections are more difficult to treat.
If you have noninfectious vaginitis, treatment will involve identifying irritants and avoiding them.
Home care cannot necessarily treat abnormal vaginal discharge, but you can take steps to improve your comfort. Good personal hygiene can also help prevent some of the causes of abnormal vaginal discharge. Self-care tips include:
After using the toilet, wipe from front to back.
Apply a cold compress to your genital area to relieve discomfort.
Avoid douches, vaginal sprays, spermicides, scented soaps, detergents, powders, and feminine products, which can cause irritation and disturb the balance with healthy bacteria.
Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
Dry your genitals thoroughly, but gently, after bathing or showering. Pat the area with a towel or use cool air.
Practice safe sex by using a condom every time.
Use pads instead of tampons during an infection.
Wear loose-fitting clothes and cotton underwear or underwear with a cotton crotch lining to increase airflow and reduce moisture. Don’t wear underwear while sleeping.
If you are facing any Gynec problems like menstrual irregularity white discharge, Book an appointment with Dr. Pallavi Agrawal