A range of infections can cause vaginal discharge and itching. Vaginal infections are commonly referred to as vaginitis, and they can be caused by certain types of bacteria and fungus or by a sexually transmitted disease (STD), such as chlamydia or genital herpes. Treatment depends on the cause of the symptoms, but many cases can be cleared up with antibiotics or anti-fungal medicines.
A yeast infection is perhaps the most common cause of itching and vaginal discharge. This type of infection is caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans yeast. The vaginal discharge is typically thick and clumpy, and the itching is usually internal and external. Most infections clear up with anti-fungal, over-the-counter treatments, such as a suppository and anti-itch cream. A single-dose pill can also clear up a yeast infection.
Bacterial vaginosis can also cause vaginal discharge and itching. The discharge from a bacterial infection is different from that caused by a yeast infection; it often has a thin consistency, a gray-white color, and an unpleasant, fishy odor. Bacterial vaginosis is usually treated with antibiotics such as metronidazole or clindamycin.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause these symptoms. It's cause by a protozoa. The discharge tends to be green-yellow in color and has a very unpleasant smell. There is usually a heavy amount of discharge as well as itching and burning due to the infection. Common treatments include single-dose pills of tinidazole or metronidazole, and the infection usually clears up within a week of treatment.
Vaginal discharge can also be caused other sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea or chalmydia, and antibiotics will usually clear up those STDs. Certain types of cancer, such as cervical or vaginal cancers, can produce a bloody discharge. Itching of the vaginal area can also be caused by outside irritants or changes in hormone levels, such as during menopause. In rare cases, the itching can be caused by pre-cancerous lesions on the vulva or by a pinworm infestation.
Certain precautions can be taken to prevent abnormal vaginal discharge and itching. A woman should limit her exposure to irritating chemicals by avoiding perfumed feminine products and toilet paper, as well as douches. The vaginal area should be kept clean and dry so that yeast or bacteria are less likely to grow and spread. Some women also find that eating foods with probiotics, such as yogurt, helps to keep vaginitis at bay.