Common Causes of Vaginal Discharge

Yes, we know. Vaginal discharge can be an uncomfortable condition to have (and an even more uncomfortable condition to talk about!) But if it happens to you, know that you’re not alone, and we’re here to help.

So what exactly causes this symptom? We’re glad you asked! Here are some of the most common causes of vaginal discharge.

1. Yeast Infections

The vaginal canal is supposed to maintain a healthy balance of yeast and bacteria, which protect the female reproductive tract against harmful pathogens. But if that balance shifts and the yeast grows faster than the bacteria, women can develop a vaginal yeast infection, which usually presents as clumped white discharge and vaginal itching.

Patients with diabetes, immune system deficiencies and those who are on oral antibiotics are at an increased risk of developing a yeast infection. However, the good news is that with an antifungal cream or oral tablet, most yeast infections resolve quickly without any long-term problems.

2. Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is similar to a yeast infection. It’s caused by normal vaginal bacteria that grows faster than the yeast cells that are meant to keep it in check, leading to a symptomatic vaginal infection. Common BV symptoms include vaginal irritation and yellow discharge that smells like fish.

BV is easily treated with vaginal antibiotic gel or oral antibiotic tablets.

3. Gonorrhea

More than 350,000 cases of gonorrhea are reported in the U.S. every year. In women, this sexually-transmitted infection can cause yellow vaginal discharge, vaginal irritation and pelvic pain. If left untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), miscarriages, preterm labor and infertility.

An antibiotic injection is first-line treatment for this sexually-transmitted infection. If caught and treated early, women can prevent the serious complications that gonorrhea can cause.

4. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the U.S. Because symptoms of chlamydia can be subtle (or even absent), the diagnosis often missed, which leads to increased rates of infection.

It’s important to screen for chlamydia because, like gonorrhea, it can cause pelvic infections, pregnancy complications or infertility if it’s not treated appropriately.

5. Trichomonas

Trichomonas is another common sexually-transmitted infection that can cause vaginal discharge, burning with urination and painful intercourse in infected women. Since it can lead to PID, pregnancy complications and infertility if left untreated, it’s important to be tested for trichomonas if you’re having vaginal discharge. When it’s diagnosed accurately and treated appropriately, trichomonas is curable with a round of antibiotics.

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