Green vaginal discharge is often a sign that you have a vaginal infection. Common culprits are a yeast infection or vaginosis, but it is also a common symptom of STDs, like trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. You will likely have other symptoms like irritation or pain with urinating. Prescription or over-the-counter medications are usually needed to treat it.
What does green vaginal discharge mean?
Vaginal discharge is normal. Its consistency changes throughout the month and is a key sign of ovulation. Some women naturally have more discharge than others. However, it is never normal to have green vaginal discharge.
Green vaginal discharge can be a sign of something relatively easy to treat, such as a yeast infection. Or it may be a sign of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). If you have a green vaginal discharge, it is very likely you will also have other symptoms, such as vaginal irritation and discomfort, pain with urination, and pelvic pain.
Most causes of green vaginal discharge are treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications.
1. Vaginal trichomonas
Trichomoniasis is the most common cause of green discharge. But most women with trichomoniasis are asymptomatic. They only find out they have it during a routine PAP smear. —Dr. Jessica White-Videa
- Vaginal odor
- Vaginal itching or burning
- More than usual vaginal discharge
Vaginal trichomonas, also called trichomoniasis or "trich," is a common STD caused by a parasite. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it affects over 2 million people per year. Only about 30% have symptoms.
You need a test to make sure you have vaginal trichomonas. If the test is positive, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection.
2. Yeast infection
- Cottage cheese-like discharge
- Yellow or green-tinged discharge
- Vaginal itching and discomfort
- Swelling of the external genitals
- Burning or pain when urinating
A yeast infection is a common vaginal infection caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida albicans.
Yeast infections can happen because you’re taking antibiotics or birth control pills, are pregnant, or have diabetes or a weakened immune system. These conditions can disturb the natural balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina.
Stress, sexual activity, living in a warm climate, and using perfumed soaps and other personal hygiene products can also raise your risk for yeast infection.
Over-the-counter and prescription anti-fungal creams and medications usually treat yeast infections.
3. Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pelvic pain, including during sexual intercourse
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a general term for a bacterial infection of a woman's reproductive organs. The major causes are two STDs called gonorrhea and chlamydia. But you can get PID from other bacteria commonly found in the rectal and vaginal area, including the one that causes bacterial vaginosis.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about any symptoms because untreated PID can cause infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and abdominal pain. Treatment includes antibiotics. If the cause is chlamydia or gonorrhea, your partner also needs to get treated.
Other possible causes
A number of conditions may also cause green vaginal discharge, though these are either rare or green vaginal discharge is not usually the defining symptom. They include bacterial vaginosis and a tampon that’s kept in for too long.
When to call the doctor
As soon as you notice green vaginal discharge, call your doctor to determine the cause.
Important questions to ask your doctor: What is the underlying cause of this discharge? Should my partner be tested and treated? Should I be screened for other STDs? —Dr. White-Videa
Should I go to the ER for green vaginal discharge?
Your doctor should be able to treat most cases of green vaginal discharge. However, go to the emergency room if you have any of these signs of a more serious problem:
- Severe pain that does not respond to over-the-counter medications
- Severe nausea and vomiting
When talking with your doctor, be very open and honest about your sexual history. —Dr. White-Videa
- Use an over-the-counter, anti-fungal creams for suspected yeast infection.
- Use a cold compress, such as an ice pack wrapped in a washcloth, to alleviate discomfort due to itching or swelling
Other treatment options
- Prescription strength anti-fungal pills and creams
- Antibiotics for sexually transmitted infections
- Avoid douching and the use of scented soaps to restore the balance of vaginal organisms.
- Use a condom during sexual intercourse to prevent STDs.
- Limit number of sexual partners.
- Replace or remove tampons after 4 to 8 hours, the FDA advises.
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