Vaginal discharge is a combination of fluid and cells that continuously shed through the vagina, wrote the Mayo Clinic. The function is to clean and protect the vagina. The color and consistency of this discharge vary from whitish and sticky, to clear and watery.
McKinley Health Center at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign said changes in normal discharge occur for many reasons, including menstrual cycle, emotional stressors, nutritional status, pregnancy, medications and sexual arousal.
Columbia University’s Go Ask Alice column reported that changes in the color, consistency, amount, and/or smell of vaginal discharge that are unlike a woman’s normal monthly changes may be cause for concern.
Vaginal discharge might be a sign of an infection if it has a bad odor, is green, yellow, or gray in color. Another possible sign of infection would be if the discharge looks foamy or like cottage cheese, said Cleveland Clinic.
The Mayo Clinic added that although most causes of abnormal vaginal discharge are relatively harmless, they can be extremely uncomfortable.
SymptomFind.com said that if a woman experiences abnormal vaginal discharge associated with any of the following symptoms -- itching, swelling, increased urination, bleeding between periods or after menopause, lesions on the genitals, fever, pelvic or genital pain, and burning during urination -- it could be a sign of something more serious.
One of the more common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge is bacterial vaginosis (BV) wrote the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Bacteria that normally live in the vagina overgrow, causing a grey discharge and fishy odor that worsen after sexual intercourse.
Another cause is a yeast infection. This occurs when there is an overabundance of yeast, often caused by a change in the pH balance of the vagina. The Cleveland Clinic described the discharge as being thick and white, like cottage cheese. Other symptoms include redness, itching, burning in vaginal/vulvar area.
Abnormal vaginal discharge may also accompany certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) wrote Mayo Clinic.