Vaginal discharge is a whitish fluid containing dead cells and bacteria from the vagina. This discharge protects the vagina from infections and keeps it clean. Some amount of vaginal discharge is normal in all women, and often varies in consistency and color. It may range from clear a fluid to sticky whitish discharge during the different stages of menstrual periods. The quantity and odor of the discharge may also differ to a certain extent. The discharge occurs more often during ovulation and breastfeeding. You may consider it as abnormal if the color, odor, or consistency becomes very strange and unusual, often accompanied by other symptoms, like itching and burning in an around the vagina.
Abnormal discharges occur when the normal bacterial content of the vagina changes considerably.
Abnormal discharge is caused by:
- Use of certain antibiotics and steroids
- Infection of the pelvis
- Bacterial infection
- Use of birth control medications
- Cervical cancer
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Infection by Trichomonas parasites
- Dryness of the vaginal walls
- Irritation of vaginal region
- Yeast infections
Abnormal discharges are of different types based on the underlying conditions:
- Brownish discharge is seen during irregular menstrual cycles and because of cervical cancer. It may also be associated with pain in the pelvic region and abnormal bleeding.
- If the discharge is yellow or very cloudy in appearance, it may indicate gonorrhea. Other symptoms include abnormal bleeding and difficulty to hold urine in the bladder.
- The discharge may become greenish and frothy with Trichomonas infection. Itching and pain in the vaginal region also may be seen in this infection.
- A thick, discharge that looks like cheese is an indication of yeast infection. Itching and pain in the region are the other common symptoms with yeast infections.
- If the discharge turns grey, or yellow with a fishy smell, it is a symptom of bacterial infection. The vagina would be reddish in color. Other symptoms include itching and burning sensation in the vagina.
The discharge is considered abnormal if it causes itching and swelling, and has a bad odor. Other warning signs include green, yellow, or grey colors of discharge, and a foamy and cheesy consistency. If pelvic pain accompanies any of the above-mentioned symptoms, one should immediately consult with a healthcare professional. Vaginal infections leading to abnormal discharge can be treated and prevented. Treatment of vaginal infections depends on the underlying cause of the condition.