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Common Infections Causing Vaginal Odor

June 08, 2023 | Dr. Saad Zia

Vaginal health is essential for overall well-being in women, and changes in vaginal odor can indicate underlying health issues or infections. A healthy vagina is maintained by the presence of beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, which help maintain an acidic pH and a slight odor that is not offensive. However, persistent, strong, unpleasant odors may indicate an underlying infection. This comprehensive blog will discuss the common infections that can cause vaginal odor, their symptoms, diagnostic procedures, treatment options, prevention measures, and the importance of seeking prompt medical attention.

Understanding Vaginal Odor

 Vaginal odor can be influenced by various factors such as the menstrual cycle, hygiene practices, and sexual activity. Typically, a healthy vagina has a slightly acidic odor that is not offensive. A strong, unpleasant odor that doesn't go away could indicate an underlying infection. The vaginal odor can vary and may be fishy, musty, earthy, metallic, or have a foul smell.

Common Infections Causing Vaginal Odor

The three most common infections that can cause vaginal odor are bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Bacterial Vaginosis: Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria within the vagina. It can result in a fishy odor, gray discharge, itching, and burning. BV occurs when the balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted. Factors such as douching, multiple sexual partners, and not using condoms can increase the risk of BV. It's important to note that not everyone with BV will experience a noticeable odor.

Yeast Infections: Yeast infections, also known as candidiasis, are caused by an overgrowth of yeast, primarily Candida albicans, in the vagina. They can lead to itching, burning, and a thick, white discharge. Yeast infections are not sexually transmitted and can occur due to factors such as a weakened immune system, hormonal changes, and the use of certain medications or antibiotics.

Sexually Transmitted Infections: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis can also cause vaginal odor and discharge. These infections are typically transmitted through sexual contact and require medical attention for diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms may include vaginal odor, abnormal discharge, itching, burning, and pain during urination or sexual intercourse.

Diagnosis and Medical Evaluation

 It is crucial to seek medical attention if you experience persistent or severe vaginal odor, discomfort, or discharge. Your healthcare provider will conduct a thorough examination and gather information about your symptoms and medical history. They may perform a physical examination, including a pelvic exam, to check for any signs of infection. To identify the specific condition causing the odor, your healthcare provider may collect vaginal swabs or request laboratory tests, such as a culture or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. These tests help confirm the diagnosis and determine the appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment Options

 Treatment for infections causing vaginal odor depends on the specific infection diagnosed by your healthcare provider. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for bacterial vaginosis and certain STIs, while antifungal medications are used for yeast infections. It is essential to complete the full course of medication as prescribed, even if symptoms improve, to ensure effective treatment and prevent recurrence. Additionally, your healthcare provider may recommend lifestyle changes, such as avoiding irritants, practicing safe sex, maintaining good vaginal hygiene, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent future infections.


 Preventing infections that cause vaginal odor is key to maintaining vaginal health. Here are some preventive measures you can take:

Practice good vaginal hygiene: Wash the external genital area with mild soap and water. Avoid using douches, scented products, or harsh soaps, as they can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina.

Wear breathable underwear: Opt for cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting clothing to allow for proper air circulation and minimize moisture buildup.

Practice safe sex: Use condoms consistently and correctly to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

Avoid irritants: Steer clear of perfumed products, harsh detergents, and intimate sprays that may irritate the delicate vaginal tissues.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Follow a balanced diet, exercise regularly, manage chronic conditions like diabetes, and prioritize your overall well-being, as these factors can impact vaginal health.


In conclusion, it is vital to promptly recognize and address vaginal odor related to infections. Bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and sexually transmitted diseases are common causes of vaginal odor, and understanding their symptoms, diagnostic procedures, and treatment options is crucial for proper management. Remember to seek medical attention if you experience persistent or severe vaginal odor, discomfort, or discharge. Completing the full course of medication as prescribed and following preventive measures are essential for effective treatment and maintaining good vaginal health. At Cura4U, a one-stop healthcare platform primarily focusing on providing patients with the Right Care at the Right Price, we offer online services for appointment scheduling, lab tests, and radiology services. Take charge of your vaginal health, and contact us today for expert guidance and support.


Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr. Tayyab Saeed Akhter on June 8th, 2023.



The odors of the human vagina - PubMed (nih.gov)- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1243522/

Treatment of Vaginal Infections: Candidiasis, Bacterial Vaginosis, and Trichomoniasis - ScienceDirect- https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1086580216302418

The Female Vaginal Microbiome in Health and Bacterial Vaginosis - PMC (nih.gov)- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8058480/#:~:text=A%20healthy%20vaginal%20microbiome%20is,the%20concentration%20of%20anaerobic%20microbes

Vaginal Odor: Types, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)- https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/17905-vaginal-odor

Vaginal Infection : Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology (lww.com)- https://journals.lww.com/clinicalobgyn/Citation/1983/03000/Vaginal_Infection.23.aspx

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