General Practice 2022

What does the color of discharge mean: white, yellow, brown

Table of contents:

What does the color of discharge mean: white, yellow, brown
What does the color of discharge mean: white, yellow, brown

When the vaginal discharge has any color, smell, thicker consistency or is different from the usual, it may indicate the presence of a vaginal infection such as candidiasis, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, bacterial vaginosis, vaginitis or chlamydia, for example.

Normal discharge is usually noticed a few days before menstruation and is transparent, similar to egg whites and has no smell.

Thus, if there is a bad smell and white, yellow, green, pink, gray or brown discharge, it is important that the gynecologist is consulted, especially if the discharge is accompanied by other symptoms. Check out the main signs that you should go to the gynecologist.

The following table provides a brief summary of the main causes of each type of vaginal discharge:

Smells like No smell
White discharge Bacterial vaginosis; Colpite Menstrual cycle; Candidiasis
Yellow discharge Trichomoniasis Gonorrhea; Chlamydia
Greenish discharge Bacterial vaginosis (rare); Trichomoniasis; Vulvovaginitis -
Brown discharge Cervical cancer -
Gray discharge Bacterial Vaginosis -
Pink discharge - Pregnancy
Transparent discharge - Menstrual cycle; Hormonal imbalance; Increased vaginal lubrication

1. White discharge

The white and thick discharge, like buttermilk, can be accompanied by other symptoms such as itching, redness and a burning sensation in the vulva and vagina, in addition to having a bad smell, depending on the cause of the discharge.

Main causes: The main cause of white discharge is infection by the fungus Candida albicans, characterizing vaginal candidiasis. However, it is possible that this type of discharge is also present in bacterial vaginosis, which is a situation in which a change in the vaginal microbiota, with greater proliferation of bacteria of the genus Gardnerella sp., and the discharge may be accompanied by a strong smell, similar to the smell of rotten fish.

Another situation where there may be white discharge is colpitis, which is an inflammation of the cervix and vagina caused by protozoa, fungi or bacteria and which leads to a whitish discharge that can have a strong and unpleasant smell.

In addition to being present in vaginal infections, white discharge can also be part of a woman's normal menstrual cycle due to the hormonal changes characteristic of this period. Learn about other causes of white discharge.

How to treat: it is important that the cause of white discharge is identified, because if it is related to the menstrual cycle, treatment is not necessary. In the case of being associated with infections, it is important that the infectious agent is identified so that the doctor can indicate the best medication, and the use of antibiotics or antifungals in the form of an ointment or tablet may be recommended.

2. Gray discharge

Gray discharge is usually indicative of bacterial vaginosis, which happens due to an imbalance of the vaginal microbiota, resulting in a decrease in the amount of lactobacilli, which are good bacteria, and an increase in the concentration of other bacteria that are also part of the microbiota, mainly Gardnerella sp., resulting in a foul-smelling discharge and the appearance of other symptoms such as a burning sensation when urinating and itching in the vulva and vagina. Learn more about bacterial vaginosis.

How to treat: the treatment for vaginosis is done according to the gynecologist's orientation, who usually recommends the use of Metronidazole in the form of ointment and intravaginal application, and should be applied for about 7 days.

3. Yellow discharge

Yellow discharge with a strong fishy smell, in some cases, can be associated with other symptoms such as pain and burning sensation during intercourse or when urinating.

Main causes: The main cause of greenish-yellow discharge is infection with the protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis, responsible for trichomoniasis, which is a sexually transmitted infection. In this case, the discharge has a bad smell and is usually accompanied by pain and discomfort when urinating and redness in the genital region, for example.

Another cause of yellow discharge is infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, responsible for chlamydia, which is also a sexually transmitted infection, and which can cause, in addition to discharge, pain and bleeding during intercourse, pelvic pain and bleeding outside the menstrual period. Gonorrhea, caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is also another sexually transmitted infection that can lead to yellowish discharge due to inflammation of the genital area.

See more about the causes of yellow discharge.

How to treat: treatment for yellow discharge is done according to the infectious agent responsible for the symptoms, and the doctor usually recommends the use of antibiotics such as Metronidazole, Tioconazole or Secnidazole, in the form of single-dose tablets or for 5 to 7 days of treatment.In addition, as they are sexually transmitted infections, it is important that the partner also undergoes the treatment, even if there are no apparent symptoms.

4. Greenish discharge

The greenish discharge is usually associated with bad smell, itching and burning in the intimate area.

Main causes: The most common cause of greenish discharge is trichomoniasis, which is a sexually transmitted infection. However, it can also be present in case of vulvovaginitis, which is an inflammation of the vulva and vagina caused by microorganisms, or bacterial vaginosis, although this type of discharge is rarer in this situation. Learn more about the main causes of greenish discharge.

How to treat: In this case, the doctor may recommend the use of antibiotics to combat the infectious agent and, consequently, the symptoms.

5. Brown discharge

Brown discharge or the presence of blood in the discharge is usually associated with other symptoms, depending on the cause. This type of discharge is usually a sign of a uterine disorder, such as cervical cancer, and the discharge may be accompanied by rapid weight loss, pelvic pain and discomfort, weight loss with no apparent cause and a feeling of pressure in the bottom of the belly.

How to treat: Treatment should be guided by the gynecologist according to the cause and symptoms presented, and surgery and/or radiotherapy may be indicated in some cases. See more about cervical cancer.

6. Pink discharge

Pink discharge can indicate the beginning of pregnancy, as it can be caused by the fertilization of the egg and often occurs up to 3 days after intimate contact. Along with this type of discharge, mild abdominal cramps are common, which are normal and end up passing without treatment.

What to do: In this case, it is important that a test is performed to confirm the pregnancy, initially the pharmacy test can be performed and, if positive, confirmed with the exam of blood. It is also important that the gynecologist is consulted so that initial guidance on pregnancy is given and prenatal care begins.

7. Transparent discharge

Transparent liquid discharge, similar to egg white, may indicate that you are in the fertile period of the menstrual cycle, which is why this is the ideal time for a woman to get pregnant if she is not under the influence of contraceptives. This type of discharge lasts approximately 6 days and ends up disappearing naturally after that time.

In addition, transparent discharge may also be present during sexual intercourse, indicating increased vaginal lubrication.

What to do: as it is a normal discharge and it is part of the menstrual cycle, it is not necessary to perform any type of treatment.However, if the transparent discharge is persistent, it is important that the doctor is consulted, as it may be indicative of hormonal imbalance, and specific treatment may be necessary.

Is it possible to have a discharge during pregnancy?

Yes, it is possible to have discharge during pregnancy, which may be related to changes in the woman's own genital microbiota, such as bacterial vaginosis and candidiasis, for example, or a consequence of a sexually transmitted infection, such as trichomoniasis and gonorrhea.

It is important that as soon as the discharge is identified, and especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms, the doctor is consulted, so that it is possible to establish the treatment immediately afterwards, avoiding complications for the woman and the baby.

What to do to not have discharge

To avoid infections and vaginal diseases that can cause discharge, it is important to perform good intimate hygiene daily, 1 to 2 times a day.For this, you should always wash the intimate region with plenty of water and a drop of soap without ever rubbing too much. After washing, you should carefully dry the intimate region and wear clean, cotton underwear, preferably. In addition, other important precautions to prevent discharge related to infections are:

  • Do not use daily sunscreen like Carefree for example;
  • Avoid using wet wipes or perfumed toilet paper;
  • Avoid rubbing the intimate area too much, even with intimate soap;
  • Use a condom in all sexual relations.

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