Some vaginal discharge is normal. A change in discharge can indicate the presence of some type of infection or a hormone imbalance. Pay close attention to unusual smell or color in your discharge as it can be a warning that something is wrong and you might need to see a doctor.
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Increased discharge with a fishy smell may indicate bacterial vaginosis. It is the most common cause of vaginitis symptoms in young women. While it's more common among sexually active women, it is not transmitted sexually. Discharge is most noticeable after having sexual intercourse.
Heavy yellow-green or gray vaginal discharge can be a symptom of Trichomonas, which is caused by a protozoa parasite. It is a common sexually transmitted disease with symptoms that include vaginal discharge, vaginal odor, pain during sex, and irritation and itching of the vagina.
Thick discharge that resembles cottage cheese may be due to a yeast infection. Other symptoms include itching, burning and irritation of the vagina, and sometimes pain when urinating. Discharge is usually odorless.
Watery vaginal discharge can indicate genital herpes. Sometimes herpes sores may not be visible in women, so a change in discharge may be the only clue. Often it will be accompanied by itching and burning, pain when urinating and the presence of weeping blisters.
Cloudy vaginal discharge can indicate gonorrhea, especially when accompanied by inflammation, itching and painful urination. Frequently, women have no symptoms at all.
Pus-filled discharge can indicate pelvic inflammatory disease. It is usually accompanied by lower abdominal pain and fever.
White discharge resembling cottage cheese may indicate chlamydia. It may be accompanied by burning, itching, painful intercourse and burning when urinating. Symptoms may be similar to those of a yeast infection.
Thin, watery discharge, sometimes blood-tinged, may indicate atrophic vaginitis. This occurs in women who are post-menopausal or whose ovaries have been surgically removed.
Tips and warnings
- Changes in discharge also occur during ovulation and pregnancy, or when using oral contraceptives and other hormones. All noticeable changes, especially when coupled with other symptoms, should be checked out by a doctor if they don't subside on their own within a few days.
- If you have any questions or concerns, contact a physician or other health care professional before engaging in any activity related to health and diet. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.