There are a variety of potential causes of vaginal discharge in women. Normal discharge ranges from clear to milky white in appearance and does not have a distinct odor. Some discharge symptoms that indicate a need for medical evaluation include infection, sexually transmitted diseases, or cancer. Childbirth and menstrual irregularities may also cause discharge abnormalities. Any questions or concerns about vaginal discharge should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
Bacterial or fungal infections are common causes of vaginal discharge, and the color of the discharge depends on the type of infection present. A yeast infection generally involves a thick, white discharge that may resemble cottage cheese and causes pain and itching. Bacterial vaginosis may cause a white, yellow, or green discharge that is often described as smelling fishy. A pink discharge may indicate a urinary tract infection, especially when accompanied by urinary urgency or pain when urinating.
Some sexually transmitted diseases may cause abnormal discharge. Trichomoniasis may cause a green or yellow discharge with a foul odor. Pain and itching when urinating is another possible symptom of this condition. Gonorrhea may involve a cloudy or yellow discharge and can cause bleeding between periods as well. Urinary incontinence is another possible symptom of gonorrhea.
Menstrual disorders are also possible causes of vaginal discharge. Irregular menstrual periods may be caused by a variety of factors, including hormonal disorders or menopause. This may lead to a pink discharge between periods or period-like bleeding. Endometriosis or certain forms of cancer affecting the reproductive organs may be responsible for this type of discharge as well.
Additional medical issues that have the potential to cause abnormal discharge include pelvic inflammatory disease, polyps on the cervix, or certain allergic reactions. Pregnancy and childbirth may cause a variety of discharge changes as well. It is important to consult a doctor any time abnormal vaginal discharge is noticed in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
Some irregular vaginal discharge may not require any specific medical treatment. Bacterial or fungal infections may just require the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications. Sexually transmitted diseases require medical treatment and safe-sex practices. Certain contributing factors such as endometriosis or cancer may require surgical intervention or other forms of intensive treatment. Once an accurate diagnosis is made, the doctor can help the patient decide on the most appropriate treatment options for the individual situation.