Anonymous on September 29, 2011

What causes vaginal discharge to change color and smell bad?

For the past few months, I’ve had vaginal discharge that has an off-color and a pretty bad odor. What is it?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on September 29, 2011

Given your symptoms, I can understand why you feel concerned. And while I would encourage you to see your doctor for an examination and definite diagnosis, I’m happy to offer you my best thoughts for your consideration. 

Vaginal discharge is extremely common and could mean a number of things. To begin, most women have vaginal discharge and it’s completely normal. However, if you notice a change in your vaginal discharge, it could indicate an infection. 

Three of the most common vaginal infections that cause abnormal discharge are yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis and the trichomoniasis, (an STD). Other STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia can also sometimes cause abnormal discharge. 

To find out the cause of your symptoms, I encourage you to visit your gynecologist. There, your doctor can visually examine you and do to the appropriate tests to determine what is causing your discomfort. You may be relieved to know that all of these possible infections are easily treatable. 

Finally, if you’d like to learn more about STDs, and how to keep yourself and your sexual partner(s) healthy, you may want to read through our Expert Guide to STD Basics.  

Thank you for trusting us with your question. I wish you a speedy resolution to your discomfort. 

Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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