• By Dana Sparks

Women’s Wellness: Causes of vaginal discharge

April 25, 2019
woman having stomach aches, cramps and pain - menstruation

Vaginal discharge is a combination of fluid and cells continuously shed through your vagina.

Normal vaginal discharge helps keep vaginal tissues healthy, provide lubrication and protect against infection and irritation. The amount, color and consistency of normal vaginal discharge varies — from whitish and sticky to clear and watery — depending on the stage of your reproductive (menstrual) cycle.

Abnormal vaginal discharge — for instance, fluid with an unusual odor or appearance or discharge that occurs along with itching or pain — may be a sign that something's wrong.

Causes

Most causes of abnormal vaginal discharge — such as yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis or menopause symptoms — are relatively harmless, but they can be uncomfortable.

Abnormal vaginal discharge can also be a symptom of certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Since these can spread to involve the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, and can be passed on to sexual partners, detection and treatment of STIs is important.

Rarely, a brownish or blood-tinged vaginal discharge could be a sign of cervical cancer.

Causes related to infection or inflammation

Other causes

Only rarely is vaginal discharge a sign of cancer.

Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your health care provider for an accurate diagnosis.

This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.

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