Most causes of abnormal vaginal discharge — such as yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis or menopause symptoms — are relatively harmless, but they can be uncomfortable.
Abnormal vaginal discharge can also be a symptom of certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Since these can spread to involve the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, and can be passed on to sexual partners, detection and treatment of STIs is important.
Rarely, a brownish or blood-tinged vaginal discharge could be a sign of cervical cancer.
Possible causes of abnormal vaginal discharge include:
Causes related to infection or inflammation
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Chlamydia trachomatis
- Forgotten (retained) tampon
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Yeast infection (vaginal)
- Certain hygiene practices, such as douching or using scented sprays or soaps
- Cervical cancer
- Vaginal atrophy (genitourinary syndrome of menopause)
- Vaginal cancer
- Vaginal fistula
Only rarely is vaginal discharge a sign of cancer.