What causes abnormal discharge?
There are a number of infections that cause vaginal discharge to change or become unpleasant. Many of these infections can be caused by having sex with someone who has the infection. Bacterial vaginosis is a very common cause of vaginal discharge. The discharge is fishy-smelling. Thrush is caused by the yeast Candida albicans. The main symptom of thrush is itching, but it can cause a thick, whitish discharge. ‘Lost’ tampons are quite a common cause of discharge.
It is easy to forget to remove the last tampon at the end of a period. After a week or two, the tampon begins to fester, and there will be a foul-smelling discharge.
Gonorrhoea is one of the most infectious sexually transmitted infections. If a woman has unprotected sex with a man who has it, she has a 60-90% chance of catching it. It’s a serious infection caused by the Gonococcus bacterium. It is serious because if it isn’t treated, it can spread upwards to the Fallopian tubes. These tubes carry the egg from the ovary to the womb (uterus), so damage to them can cause infertility. About one-fifth of women with gonorrhoea have a foul-smelling, greenish-yellow discharge. About one-fifth have vague symptoms, such as a slight increase in discharge, pain on intercourse or lower abdominal discomfort. About one-fifth have no symptoms at all.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a tiny amoeba-like (protozoan) organism called Trichomonas vaginalis. It used to be common, but for mysterious reasons is becoming less so; over the last 10 years the number of cases in England and Wales has fallen from 17,000/year to 5000/year. It causes a discharge that is often frothy and yellowish-greenish, but it may be thin and scanty. The discharge is smelly, and the vulva is often sore. It may also be painful to pass urine. It is caught from a man who has it, but he may be unaware of his condition as most men with trichomoniasis don’t have any symptoms. It is not dangerous, though some doctors think it could possibly spread to the Fallopian tubes.