What Is Considered Abnormal Vaginal Discharge?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
Most females who have experienced puberty have vaginal discharge.
Most females who have experienced puberty have vaginal discharge.

An abnormal vaginal discharge is typically characterized by an unpleasant odor or a significant change in its color or consistency. In addition, if the discharge is accompanied by discomfort caused by itching or burning, this can be a sign that there is a medical problem that should be examined and treated by a health care professional. Women should also keep in mind, however, that regularly experiencing vaginal discharge is quite normal and nothing to be concerned about. By paying attention to her discharge, a woman can be aware of changes that may indicate that there is something amiss.

Abnormal vaginal discharge can indicate certain forms of vaginitis, which are easily treatable through prescription medications.
Abnormal vaginal discharge can indicate certain forms of vaginitis, which are easily treatable through prescription medications.

The color of a woman's vaginal discharge can change throughout her monthly cycle, but is often clear or perhaps milky in color. Strange vaginal discharge can be one of several colors. For example, while many women who have irregular periods may experience a reddish brown discharge, this color of discharge is infrequently found in women who may have some type of vaginal bleeding caused by cervical cancer or another pelvic condition. Yellow or greenish discharge can indicate a trichomoniasis or gonorrhea infection. A thick white discharge may indicate a yeast infection.

Vaginal discharge that requires the use of pads or tampons between periods may be considered abnormal.
Vaginal discharge that requires the use of pads or tampons between periods may be considered abnormal.

In many cases, though not all, an abnormal vaginal discharge may be accompanied by an unusual or unpleasant odor. This too is a common sign of a problem and should prompt a woman to seek medical assistance. Discharge from a yeast infection may not have a significant odor, however. A fishy odor may be caused by a condition known as bacterial vaginosis, whereas other conditions may simply be characterized by a particularly unpleasant odor.

Strange vaginal discharge can be one of several colors.
Strange vaginal discharge can be one of several colors.

Other symptoms may accompany vaginal discharge. For example, yeast infections may result in a woman experiencing pain during intercourse. Other infections, such as trichomoniasis, may result in painful urination. Other symptoms may include itching or general tenderness in a woman's genital region. Redness and swelling may also be signs of a potential infection or gynecological condition.

People with new or multiple sexual partners are more likely to develop bacterial vaginosis, which may cause foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
People with new or multiple sexual partners are more likely to develop bacterial vaginosis, which may cause foul-smelling vaginal discharge.

Many of the conditions that cause abnormal vaginal discharge will not go away on their own. They can also be contagious and passed back and forth between a woman and her sexual partner or partners if both are not treated. For this reason, abnormal vaginal discharge should be taken seriously. Women who experience this may also want to consider discontinuing sexual activity until they receive a medical diagnosis of their condition and, if appropriate, medical treatment.

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Discussion Comments

neyrose

I am currently experiencing internal itching and observed odorless vaginal discharge a month ago. This discharge started as watery and now thickens to yellow. I inserted half of a garlic clove because I have found it very effective for any infection. To my surprise, it's my first time to see my vulva in the mirror and I saw a fleshy tissue. I inserted my finger and there is a mass of fleshy reddish tissue along the vaginal wall. What is this?

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    • Most females who have experienced puberty have vaginal discharge.
      Most females who have experienced puberty have vaginal discharge.
    • Abnormal vaginal discharge can indicate certain forms of vaginitis, which are easily treatable through prescription medications.
      Abnormal vaginal discharge can indicate certain forms of vaginitis, which are easily treatable through prescription medications.
    • Vaginal discharge that requires the use of pads or tampons between periods may be considered abnormal.
      Vaginal discharge that requires the use of pads or tampons between periods may be considered abnormal.
    • Strange vaginal discharge can be one of several colors.
      Strange vaginal discharge can be one of several colors.
    • People with new or multiple sexual partners are more likely to develop bacterial vaginosis, which may cause foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
      People with new or multiple sexual partners are more likely to develop bacterial vaginosis, which may cause foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
    • Many conditions that cause abnormal vaginal discharge can be passed back and forth between a woman and her partner if they're not treated.
      Many conditions that cause abnormal vaginal discharge can be passed back and forth between a woman and her partner if they're not treated.
    • Women suffering from a yeast infection may experience a burning sensation during urination.
      Women suffering from a yeast infection may experience a burning sensation during urination.