Vaginal Discharge

Is this your symptom?

  • Normal Vaginal Discharge
  • May be clear or white, thin or thick
  • It does not smell and there is no itching
  • Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
  • Yellow or green (most often from an infection)
  • Smells bad (most often from an infection)
  • White, itchy, cottage cheese-like, and does not smell (often caused by a yeast infection)

Some Basics...

  • It is normal for women to have some vaginal discharge. A small amount of milky-white or clear and non-smelling discharge is normal. This discharge helps keep the genitals healthy and clean.
  • Abnormal discharge is a very common complaint among women. Changes in color, odor, and amount may mean there is a more serious problem.

Causes of Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

  • Vaginitis: This is a term that means "vaginal inflammation." It often causes vaginal discharge and itching. It may happen from chemical irritation. This may be from too much douching or over-use of yeast medicines. It may also have an infectious cause, like:
    • Candidiasis (thick, white, cottage cheese-like, discharge that does not smell)
    • Trichomonas (foamy, yellow-green foul-smelling discharge)
    • Bacterial vaginosis (white-gray discharge, fishy odor).
  • Vaginal Foreign Bodies (FB): These must be removed to stop infection. A common FB can be a forgotten tampon. Sometimes, FBs are not found until a woman sees her doctor.
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD): These may cause a new or not normal vaginal discharge. They may also cause pain with passing urine, pelvic pain, and bleeding.

Warning!

  • All women of childbearing age should consider the possibility that they might be pregnant.
  • In the second half of pregnancy, increasing discharge can be a sign of early labor.

When to Call for Vaginal Discharge

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Yellow, green, or gray discharge and fever
  • Genital area looks infected (spreading redness or draining sore) and fever
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Stomach pains come and go (cramps), and last more than 24 hours
  • Genital area looks infected (spreading redness or draining sore)
  • Rash with painful tiny water blisters
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Symptoms of a yeast infection (white, thick, cottage-cheese-like, itchy discharge) and you have not seen a doctor for this in the past
  • Home yeast infection treatment for more than 3 days and you are not better
  • Yellow, green, or gray vaginal discharge
  • Bad smelling discharge
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a weak immune system (HIV, cancer chemo, long-term steroid use, splenectomy)
  • Pain with sex
  • You are worried you might have an STD
  • You are pregnant
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Symptoms that are like a prior yeast infection (white, thick, cottage-cheese-like, itchy discharge)
  • Normal discharge

Care Advice for Normal Vaginal Discharge or Yeast Infection

  1. What You Should Know:
    • It is normal for women to have some vaginal discharge. A small amount of milky-white or clear and non-smelling discharge is normal. This discharge helps keep the genitals healthy and clean.
    • Yeast infections can cause abnormal vaginal discharge.
    • You can treat yeast infections at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Pregnancy Test, When in Doubt:
    • If there is a chance that you might be pregnant, use a urine pregnancy test.
    • You can buy a pregnancy test at the drugstore.
    • It works best first thing in the morning.
    • Follow all package instructions.
  3. Antifungal Medication: There are many over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to treat yeast infections.
    • Sold in the United States: Femstat-3, miconazole (Monistat-3), clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin-3, Mycelex-7), and butoconazole (Femstat-3).
    • Sold in Canada: miconazole (Monistat-3) and clotrimazole (Canesten-3).
    • If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before using these.
    • Do not use yeast medication during the 24 hours before seeing a doctor. It may change the results of an exam.
    • Read all package instructions.
  4. Genital Hygiene:
    • Keep your genital area clean and dry.
    • Wash daily.
    • Wipe from front to back after going to the bathroom.
    • Wear underwear that is all cotton or has a cotton crotch.
    • Do not douche.
    • Do not use scented soaps or feminine products.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pregnancy test is positive
    • You have trouble with the at-home test
    • Not better after treating yourself for a yeast infection
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 12/15/2017 1:32:55 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:23 PM

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