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Can STIs cause discharge?

Yes–and that’s often accompanied by additional symptoms.

Vaginal discharge clears and rebalances the reproductive tract. But sometimes the usual clear, whitish secretion that’s considered healthy can change because of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

STIs and discharge: The Quick Take

  • STIs can cause changes to your vaginal discharge.
  • These can include trichomoniasis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.
  • Infections can cause the texture, color, consistency and smell of discharge to be different.
  • See your doctor if you notice these sudden changes, especially if you also experience discomfort. 

STDs/STIs alter the vagina’s bacterial environment

The vagina–your reproductive tract–is more than a body part. It’s an environment that comprises different types of bacteria called microflora

STIs can cause changes in that bacterial environment, throwing off the balance of microflora. The result? You may experience changes in the amount, color (green, orange, yellow, white, brown), texture and odor of discharge.  

Which STIs cause discharge?

Trichomoniasis 

Trichomoniasis is a common STI caused by a microscopic parasite (Trichomonas vaginalis). This organism spreads during sex when one partner has the parasite.

Trichomoniasis usually infects the vagina. You may have symptoms–which can include clear, white, greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge, along with mild to severe inflammation–within five to 28 days of exposure (1)

It can be cured with a prescription from your doctor.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection of the genital tract. Early-stage infections can be tough to detect because of a lack of signs or symptoms. (At least 70% of women don’t experience symptoms.)

Symptoms of chlamydia usually start one to three weeks after you've been exposed to the infection. In addition to causing strong-smelling white, yellow or gray vaginal discharge, chlamydia can cause:

  • itching
  • painful urination
  • lower abdominal pain
  • pain during sex 
  • bleeding between periods.

These symptoms can be mild and pass quickly, so it’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling. Chlamydia can be easily cured with antibiotics but, without treatment, can cause infertility (2).

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection in the genital tract, but also can be present in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus. 

Most people experience initial gonorrhea symptoms–such as thick, white/cloudy, yellow or bloody vaginal discharge–within 10 days after exposure. Some people can be infected for months before they have signs or symptoms

Additional symptoms of gonorrhea may include:

  • pain or burning when urinating
  • bleeding between periods or heavy menstrual bleeding
  • painful bowel movements and anal itching
  • fever
  • sore throat (if the infection is present in the throat)

Gonorrhea is curable with antibiotics but can lead to complications if it’s not treated.

  1. Trichomoniasis. (2020, April 18). Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/trichomoniasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20378609

  2. Chlamydia trachomatis. (2020, February 20). Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chlamydia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355349

  3. Gonorrhea. (2019, December 06). Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gonorrhea/symptoms-causes/syc-20351774

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