Vaginal discharge is a combination of fluid and cells continuously shed through your vagina. Vaginal discharge functions to clean and protect the vagina. The color and consistency of vaginal discharge vary — from whitish and sticky to clear and watery between your menstrual periods — roughly corresponding to the stage of your reproductive cycle.
Some amount of vaginal discharge is completely normal. However, if your vaginal discharge has an unusual odor and appearance, or occurs along with itching or pain, it may be a sign that something's wrong.
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
- Cervical cancer
- Cervical polyps, noncancerous (benign) growths on your cervix
- 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)
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.