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Alternative Names Return to topDischarge from the vagina
Definition Return to top
Vaginal discharge refers to secretions from the vagina. Such discharge can vary in:
Considerations Return to top
Having some amount of vaginal discharge is normal, especially if you are of childbearing age. Glands in the cervix produce a clear mucus. These secretions may turn white or yellow when exposed to the air. These are normal variations.
The amount of mucus produced by the cervical glands varies throughout the menstrual cycle. This is normal and depends on the amount of estrogen circulating in your body. It is also normal for the walls of the vagina to release some secretions. The amount depends on hormone levels in the body.
Vaginal discharge that suddenly differs in color, odor, or consistency, or significantly increases or decreases in amount, may indicate an underlying problem like an infection.
Causes Return to top
The following situations can increase the amount of normal vaginal discharge:
Abnormal vaginal discharge may be due to:
Home Care Return to top
To help prevent and treat vaginal discharge:
If the discharge is caused by a sexually transmitted disease, your sexual partner (or partners) must be treated as well, even if they have no symptoms. Failure of partners to accept treatment can cause the infection to keep coming back and may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your doctor right away if:
Also call if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
Your doctor will take a medical history and perform a physical examination including a pelvic exam.
Medical history questions may include:
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:
Treatment depends on the underlying condition. Suppositories or creams may be ordered and antibiotics may be prescribed. Medications taken by mouth may be needed to treat certain fungus or trichomoniasis infections. Your sexual partner(s) may also need treatment.
References Return to top
Anderson M, Karasz A, Friedland S. Are vaginal symptoms ever normal? A review of the literature. MedGenMed. 2004; 6(4): 49.
Melville C, Nandwani R, Bigrigg A, McMahon AD. A comparative study of clinical management strategies for vaginal discharge in family planning and genitourinary medicine settings. J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care. 2005; 31(1): 26-30.
French L, Horton J, Matousek M. Abnormal vaginal discharge: what does and does not work in treating underlying causes. J Fam Pract. 2004; 53(11): 890-894.
Eckert LO; Lentz GM. Infections of the lower genital tract: vulva, vagina, cervix, toxic shock syndrome, HIV infections. In Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 22.
Sanfilippo JS. Vulvovaginitis. In Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 549.Update Date: 8/1/2008 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Maternal & Child Health Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine; Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.