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Vaginal discharge

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Apr 25, 2023.


Vaginal discharge, also called leukorrhea, is made up of both fluid and cells. Your vagina sheds discharge throughout the day.

Typical discharge helps keep the vagina healthy and clean. By keeping the tissues wet, it protects against infection and irritation. Vaginal discharge might seem different at times. It could be whitish and sticky or clear and watery. These changes usually depend on where you are in your period cycle. It's common for the amount, color and consistency all to change.

Sometimes though, vaginal discharge can be a symptom that something's wrong. You might have discharge that smells bad or looks strange to you. Or you might feel itching or pain. If so, contact your health care provider to see if you might need to have the discharge checked.


Yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and menopause all can change vaginal discharge. These conditions can make you uncomfortable, but there are treatments that can help.

Sometimes, differences in your discharge can be a symptom of something more serious. Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause changes to vaginal discharge. STIs can be a danger to your body's health and to others. So knowing if you have an STI is important.

Brownish or blood-tinged discharge can be a sign of cervical cancer. But this is rare.

Causes related to infection or inflammation

Possible causes of unusual vaginal discharge linked to infections or inflammation include:

Other causes

Other causes of unusual vaginal discharge include:

It's rare for changes to vaginal discharge to be a sign of cancer.

When to see a doctor

Schedule a visit with your health care provider if you have:

For self-care at home:

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