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Cheese-Like Vaginal Odor Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

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Last updated March 24, 2022

Cheese-like vaginal odor quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your cheese-like vaginal odor.

Understand your cheese-like vaginal odor symptoms, including 3 causes and common questions.

9 most common causes

Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
Mittelschmerz
Atrophic Vaginitis
Yeast Infection
Bacterial Vaginosis
Chlamydia Infection
Vaginal Discharge
Illustration of a doctor beside a bedridden patient.
Vaginal trichomonas infection
Illustration of a health care worker swabbing an individual.
Gonorrhea infection

3 causes of cheese-like vaginal odor

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Yeast infection

A vaginal yeast infection, also called genital/vulvovaginal candidiasis, is actually caused by the fungus Candida albicans and is very common. The organism is a normal inhabitant of the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and vagina.

Antibiotics can kill off the healthy bacteria in the vagina, allowing overgrowth of the fungus. Women who are pregnant, on the birth control pill, or diabetic are more prone to yeast infections, as are those who have weakened immune systems. It can also be transmitted through sex or through mouth-to-genital contact.

Symptoms include itching, burning, pain, and soreness inside the vagina and on the external tissues (the vulva,) and a thick, white vaginal discharge.

If not treated, the yeast infection can become "complicated," severe, and difficult to cure.

Most yeast infections are diagnosed simply through the patient's description of symptoms. Recurrent infections may be diagnosed through pelvic examination and vaginal swab.

Treatment often is just an over-the-counter cream, though oral anti-fungal medications are sometimes prescribed.

Vaginal trichomonas infection

Trichomonas vaginalis infection (or "Trichomoniasis" or "trich") is a common sexually transmitted disease caused by a parasite of the same name. It affects over 3 million people per year, but only about 30% have any symptoms.

You should go see your primary care doctor in the coming days. He or she may order a number of tests to identify if the bug is actually the cause of your symptoms. Treatment involves prescription metronidazole or tinidazole.

Ovulation pain (mittelschmerz) or midcycle spotting

Mittelschmerz is a German word that translates as "middle pain." It refers to the normal discomfort sometimes felt by women during ovulation, which is at the midpoint of the menstrual cycle.

Each month, one of the two ovaries forms a follicle that holds an egg cell. The pain occurs when the follicle ruptures and releases the egg.

This is a dull, cramping sensation that may begin suddenly in only one side of the lower abdomen. In a few cases, there may be vaginal spotting. Mittelschmerz occurs about 14 days before the start of the next menstrual period.

Actual Mittelschmerz is not associated with nausea, vomiting, fever, or severe pelvic pain. These symptoms should be evaluated by a medical provider since they can indicate a more serious condition.

Diagnosis is made through patient history.

Treatment requires only over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain. An oral contraceptive will stop the symptoms, since it also stops ovulation.

Normal case of vaginal discharge

It is perfectly normal for every woman to have a clear or thin white vaginal discharge which is more or less constant.

The body protects the vaginal tissues by producing this light mucus from glands in the cervix and in the vaginal walls. This keeps the tissues lubricated so that they do not dry out and become irritated, and keeps the tissues slightly acidic because that helps to kill off any harmful germs.

The discharge is also a cleaning mechanism, clearing away any dead cells or bacteria as it moves out of the vagina. Douching is not necessary for normal discharge.

Vaginal discharge may change at different stages of life. During pregnancy, it becomes white and milky in appearance.

During and after menopause, the discharge lessens due to the drop in estrogen levels. If the dryness causes irritation or difficulty with sexual activity, a gynecologist can recommend an appropriate remedy.

Normal vaginal discharge never causes itching or has a foul smell, and is never any color other than clear or white.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: vaginal discharge, mild vaginal discharge, white/gray vaginal discharge, clear vaginal discharge, severe vaginal discharge

Symptoms that always occur with normal case of vaginal discharge: vaginal discharge

Symptoms that never occur with normal case of vaginal discharge: vaginal itch or burning, painful urination, severe vaginal discharge, vaginal pain, abdominal pain (stomach ache), bleeding after sex, missed period, vulvovaginal odor

Urgency: Wait and watch

Gonorrhea infection

Gonorrhea is a common STD and 350,000 cases occur each year in the United States. It is transmitted through unprotected sex.

You should visit your primary care physician to get tested as soon as possible and discuss treatment options. Please make sure you have protected intercourse until you have been tested.

Early menopause

Early menopause, or primary ovarian insufficiency, is the loss of normal ovarian function and reduced fertility before 40 years of age. Typically, menopause happens around age 50. Common symptoms include irregular or absent periods, hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Most women with this condition experience difficulty getting pregnant.

You should consider visiting a healthcare provider in the next few weeks to discuss your symptoms. Your provider can evaluate POI with a review of your symptoms and medical history. Your provider may also order pregnancy and blood tests. Treatment focuses on addressing symptoms with estrogen therapy and other supplements.

Chlamydia infection

Chlamydia is a common bacterial infection that is spread through unprotected sex. Each year, over 1 million Americans are diagnosed with this STD.

You should visit a physician to confirm the diagnosis where an antibiotic will be prescribed.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is an inflammation of the vagina due to overgrowth of the bacteria which are normally present.

It is not considered an STD (sexually transmitted disease) but nearly all cases are found in women after unprotected sexual contact, especially with multiple partners.

Frequent douching is also a factor.

Male partners do not carry this condition, but it can spread between female partners.

Common symptoms include an itchy, foul-smelling discharge that may look grayish or greenish, as well as burning during urination. However, some women have no symptoms.

The greatest risks of bacterial vaginosis are secondary. The symptoms can be similar to actual STDs and so should not be ignored. This condition makes a woman more vulnerable to actual STDs, as well as to pelvic inflammatory disease and to infections following any gynecologic surgery.

Pregnant women with bacterial vaginosis are at risk for premature or low-birth-weight babies.

Diagnosis is made through symptoms, and/or pelvic exam and vaginal swab.

Treatment consists of oral medication, and sometimes a cream or gel that is inserted into the vagina.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: vaginal itch or burning, vulvovaginal odor, bloody vaginal discharge, white/gray vaginal discharge, thick vaginal discharge

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Atrophic vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis is a condition causing dryness of the vagina. It is caused by a drop in estrogen levels, which happens due to menopause, stress, medication side effects, and childbirth. Other symptoms include painful sex and vaginal soreness.

You should consider visiting a medical professional to discuss your symptoms. Atrophic vaginitis is evaluated with a review of your symptoms and a pelvic exam. Once diagnosed, it can be treated with estrogen replacement, moisturizers, and lubricants. Avoiding douching and perfumes may help dryness from worsening.

Questions your doctor may ask about cheese-like vaginal odor

  • Are you sexually active?
  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Do you feel pain when you urinate?
  • When was your last menstrual period?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Cheese-like vaginal odor symptom checker statistics

People who have experienced cheeselike vaginal odor have also experienced:

  • 29% Vaginal Discharge
  • 16% Foul-Smelling Vaginal Odor
  • 13% Yellow Pus Vaginal Discharge

People who have experienced cheeselike vaginal odor were most often matched with:

  • 75% Bacterial Vaginosis
  • 25% Yeast Infection

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.

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