Unpleasant vaginal odor is a common cause of concern for women. In healthy women, vaginal secretions can vary in consistency, color and smell throughout the monthly menstrual cycle. A strong, unusual or bad vaginal odor can occur for a number of reasons, including sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal infections, cervical cancer or poor hygiene. Women who notice a change in the appearance or odor of their vaginal secretions should speak with a doctor for further evaluation and care.
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Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Certain types of sexually transmitted diseases, such as trichomoniasis, can cause women to develop an unusually strong or bad vaginal odor, explain health officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These symptoms can develop within a week following exposure to a sexually transmitted disease and may progressively worsen until receipt of treatment. Unusual vaginal odor caused by a sexually transmitted disease is often accompanied by other symptoms, including flu-like symptoms, abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal irritation, pain during urination or vaginal skin lesions. Women who develop any of these symptoms in conjunction with bad vaginal odor should seek medical care immediately.
Vaginal infections caused by the overgrowth of naturally-occurring yeast or bacteria can cause bad vaginal odor to arise in certain women. A vaginal yeast infection can cause a woman to develop unusually thick, white vaginal discharge that may emit a yeast-like odor. Women who develop bacterial vaginosis can develop profuse vaginal discharge that is thick or discolored and gives off a strong, fish-like odor, reports KidsHealth, a children's health information website supported by the Nemours Foundation. Bad vaginal odor symptoms caused by vaginal infections typically persist until affected women receive appropriate antibiotic or antifungal treatment.
Bad vaginal odor can be caused by the presence of cancerous cells within the cervix. Health officials at MayoClinic.com report that unusual, watery discharge that emits a foul odor can be a symptom of cervical cancer in certain women. Women who develop bad vaginal odor in addition to pelvic pain or irregular vaginal bleeding should seek medical care immediately.
Poor hygiene can be a cause of bad vaginal odor in certain women. Warm, moist areas, such as the vagina, are common sites for pathogen overgrowth. Cleansing the external region of the vagina with water or soap can limit bad vaginal odor symptoms in certain women. Bad vaginal odor may also occur if a woman forgets to remove a tampon from her vagina, warns MayoClinic.com. Women who have questions regarding healthy hygiene practices should contact a medical professional.