Most causes of abnormal vaginal discharge — such as yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis or menopause symptoms — are relatively harmless, but they can be very uncomfortable.
Abnormal vaginal discharge can also be a symptom of certain sexually transmitted infections. Since these infections can be passed on to other sexual partners — or can spread to the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes — detection and treatment is important.
Very rarely, a brownish or blood-tinged vaginal discharge could be a sign of cervical cancer.
Other causes of vaginal discharge may include:
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Placenta previa
- Genital warts
- HPV infection
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Rectovaginal fistula (an abnormal opening between the rectum and vagina that allows feces to leak into the vagina)
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Vaginal atrophy
- Vaginal cancer
- Vesicovaginal fistula
- Yeast infection (vaginal)
Mar. 22, 2013
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
- Sobel JD. Evaluation of women with symptoms of vaginitis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 17, 2013.
- Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines 2010: Disease characterized by vaginal discharge. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/vaginal-discharge.htm. Accessed Jan. 17, 2013.
- Lentz GM, et al. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/linkTo?type=bookPage&isbn=978-0-323-06986-1&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-06986-1..C2009-0-48752-X--TOP. Accessed Jan. 17, 2013.
- Rakel RE. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191205553-4/0/1481/0.html#. Accessed Jan. 17, 2013.
- Frumovitz M. Invasive cervical cancer: Epidemiology, risk factors, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 21, 2013.
- Livengood CH III, et al. Clinical features and diagnosis of pelvic inflammatory disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 21, 2013.
- Vaginal cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/vaginal/Patient. Accessed Jan. 21, 2013.