Vaginal discharge refers to secretions from the vagina. The discharge may be:
Itching of the skin of the vagina and the surrounding area (vulva) may be present along with vaginal discharge. It can also occur on its own.
Glands in the cervix and the walls of the vagina normally produce clear mucus. This is very common among women of childbearing age.
The following factors can increase the amount of normal vaginal discharge:
Ovulation (the release of an egg from your ovary in the middle of menstrual cycle)
Infections spread during sexual contact. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea (GC), and trichomoniasis. Vaginal yeast infection, caused by a fungus.
Normal bacteria that live in the vagina overgrow and cause a gray discharge and fishy odor. This is called bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is not spread through sexual contact.
Other causes of vaginal discharge and itching may be:
Menopause and low estrogen levels. This may lead to vaginal dryness and other symptoms (atrophic vaginitis).
Forgotten tampon or foreign body. This may cause a foul odor.
Chemicals found in detergents, fabric softeners, feminine sprays, ointments, creams, douches, and contraceptive foams or jellies or creams. This may irritate the vagina or the skin around the vagina.
Less common causes include:
Cancer of the vulva, cervix, vagina, uterus, or fallopian tubes
Skin conditions, such as desquamative vaginitis and lichen planus
Call your provider right away if:
Changes that could indicate a problem such as infection include:
These early signs and symptoms usually disappear within a week to a month and are often mistaken for those of another viral infection. During this period, you're highly infectious. More-persistent or -severe symptoms of HIV infection may not appear for 10 years or more after the initial infection.
As the virus continues to multiply and destroy immune cells, you may develop mild infections or chronic signs and symptoms such as:
Signs and symptoms of late-stage HIV infection include:
Highly contagious, genital herpes is caused by a type of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that enters your body through small breaks in your skin or mucous membranes. Most people with HSV never know they have it, because they have no signs or symptoms or the signs and symptoms are so mild they go unnoticed.
When signs and symptoms are noticeable, the first episode is generally the worst. Some people never have a second episode. Others, however, can have recurrent episodes for decades.
The initial symptom of genital herpes usually is pain or itching, beginning within a few weeks after exposure to an infected sexual partner. After several days, small red bumps may appear. They then rupture, becoming ulcers that ooze or bleed. Eventually, scabs form and the ulcers heal.
In women, sores can erupt in the vaginal area, external genitals, buttocks, anus or cervix. In men, sores can appear on the penis, scrotum, buttocks, anus or thighs, or inside the tube from the bladder through the penis (urethra).
Ulcers can make urination painful. You may also have pain and tenderness in your genital area until the infection clears. During an initial episode, you may have flu-like signs and symptoms, such as a headache, muscle aches and fever, as well as swollen lymph nodes in your groin.
In some cases, the infection can be active and contagious even when sores aren't present.
HPV infection is one of the most common types of STIs. Some forms put women at high risk of cervical cancer. Other forms cause genital warts. HPV usually has no signs or symptoms. The signs and symptoms of genital warts include:
Often, however, genital warts cause no symptoms. Genital warts may be as small as 1 millimeter in diameter or may multiply into large clusters.
In women, genital warts can grow on the vulva, the walls of the vagina, the area between the external genitals and the anus, and the cervix. In men, they may occur on the tip or shaft of the penis, the scrotum, or the anus. Genital warts can also develop in the mouth or throat of a person who has had oral sex with an infected person.
Hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are all contagious viral infections that affect your liver. Hepatitis B and C are the most serious of the three, but each can cause your liver to become inflamed.
Some people never develop signs or symptoms. But for those who do, signs and symptoms may occur several weeks after exposure and may include:
Syphilis is a bacterial infection. The disease affects your genitals, skin and mucous membranes, but it can also involve many other parts of your body, including your brain and your heart.
The signs and symptoms of syphilis may occur in four stages — primary, secondary, latent and tertiary. There's also a condition known as congenital syphilis, which occurs when a pregnant woman with syphilis passes the disease to her unborn infant. Congenital syphilis can be disabling, even life-threatening, so it's important for a pregnant woman with syphilis to be treated.
The first sign of syphilis, which may occur from 10 days to three months after exposure, may be a small, painless sore (chancre) on the part of your body where the infection was transmitted, usually your genitals, rectum, tongue or lips. A single chancre is typical, but there may be multiple sores.
The sore typically heals without treatment, but the underlying disease remains and may reappear in the second (secondary) or third (tertiary) stage.
Signs and symptoms of secondary syphilis may begin three to six weeks after the chancre appears, and may include:
These signs and symptoms may disappear without treatment within a few weeks or repeatedly come and go for as long as a year.
In some people, a period called latent syphilis — in which no symptoms are present — may follow the secondary stage. Signs and symptoms may never return, or the disease may progress to the tertiary stage.
Without treatment, syphilis bacteria may spread, leading to serious internal organ damage and death years after the original infection.
Some of the signs and symptoms of tertiary syphilis include:
At any stage, syphilis can affect the nervous system. Neurosyphilis may cause no signs or symptoms, or it can cause: