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Vaginal itching and discharge - Adult and adolescent

Definition

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.

Alternative Names

Pruritus vulvae; Itching - vaginal area; Vulvar itching

Causes

Glands in the cervix and the walls of the vagina normally produce a clear mucus. This is very common among women of childbearing age.

The following factors can increase the amount of normal vaginal discharge:

Different types of infections may cause itching or a discharge in the vagina. These include:

Other causes of vaginal discharge and itching may be:

Less common causes include:

Home Care

Keep your genital area clean and dry when you have vaginitis.

Avoid douching. Many women feel cleaner when they douche, but it may actually worsen symptoms because it removes healthy bacteria that line the vagina. These bacteria help protect against infection.

Other tips are:

Allow more air to reach your genital area. You can do this by:

Girls and women should also:

Always practice safe sex, and use condoms to avoid catching or spreading infections.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider right away if you have vaginal discharge and:

Changes that could indicate a problem such as infection include:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your doctor will take a medical history and perform a physical exam including a pelvic exam.

Tests that may be performed include:

Treatment depends on the cause of your symptoms.

References

Eckert LO, Lentz GM. Infections of the lower genital tract. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds.Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 23.

Merritt DF. Vulvovaginitis. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 543.

Schrager SB, Paladine HL, Cadwallader K. Gynecology. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 25.


Review Date: 11/10/2013
Reviewed By: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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