Vaginal discharge, or mucus, is normal. MayoClinic.com describes it as a combination of fluid, cells and bacteria that are continuously shed through the vagina. The purpose is to clean and protect the vagina. Discharge can be different for each woman and can change throughout the month. A significant change in mucus secretions can indicate a health concern.
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The National Institutes of Health points out that several normal female bodily functions can increase mucus secretions. These include emotional stress, ovulation, pregnancy and sexual excitement.
Vaginitis is a common bacterial infection in women caused by an imbalance of naturally occurring bacteria in the vaginal tissues. The bacteria levels can be upset in a variety of ways: wearing tight pants, using fragranced soaps or douching.
Symptoms of vaginitis differ from one woman to another. FamilyDoctor.org points out that when vaginitis occurs the discharge amount, color and smell can change from what a woman typically experiences. The secretions can significantly increase. The odor is often foul and the color may be white or greenish. Skin tissues may become inflamed and itchy. An oral antibiotic is prescribed to treat this infection.
Bacterial vaginosis is another type of vaginal infection that causes an increase in mucus secretions. The cause of this infection is the Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria. The reason women contract this bacteria is not clear, according to FamilyDoctor.org, but it is not considered a sexually transmitted infection. Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include white, gray or yellowish vaginal discharge; a fishy odor; vaginal itching; vaginal burning; redness of the vagina or vulva; and swelling of the vagina or vulva.
Trichomoniasis is a vaginal infection caused by Trichomonas vaginalis, a type of bacteria. Symptoms may take a long time to appear. Symptoms of this infection include pain when urinating, itching when urinating, foul odor and unusual discharge. The mucus secretions of the vagina during this infection may be watery, yellowish, greenish or bubbly, according to FamilyDoctor.org.
Sexually Transmitted Infection
Two types of sexually transmitted infections, chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause an increase in vaginal discharge, according to FamilyDoctor.org. These infections are passed from one sexual partner to another. Antibiotics are used to treat the bacteria. Sometimes symptoms do not exist with these infections. When they do appear, they consist of vaginal discharge, foul odor and itching.
Yeast is found naturally in small amounts in the vagina. If too much of this fungus grows the result is a yeast infection. FamilyDoctor.org suggests yeast infections are common and typically aren't serious. Symptoms include a significant increase in vaginal discharge that is white and lumpy, swelling around the vulva, pain around the vulva, intense itching and pain during sex. Treatment consists of an oral or vaginal antifungal medication.