Produced in response to an infection, vaginal pus can vary in color from yellow or green to white and can have a frothy, mucus-like or cottage-cheese texture, sometimes with an unusual odor. Common causes of pus in the vagina include yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infection, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Typically referred to as vaginitis, vaginal discharge is also generally accompanied by inflammation, itching, and pain.
Vaginal secretions are normally produced by the female reproductive organs, namely the cervix, the vagina, or the uterus. Microbes, the normal flora, are always present in the vagina in the form of yeast and bacteria; however, the problem comes when growth and presence of normal flora is disrupted or thrown off balance. Playing a significant role, pH determines the vaginal environment for growth of microorganisms. Normal pH for the vagina ranges from 3.8 to 4.2, more on the acidic side. Vaginal creams and deodorants, medication, hormonal changes, and STDs are a few examples of things that can alter vaginal pH, causing pus in the vagina.
Affecting about one-third of U.S. women, 61 percent in Iran, and up to 50 percent in sub-Saharan Africa as of 2011, the most common cause of vaginitis, is bacterial vaginosis, a condition typically caused by a microbe known as Gardnerella vaginalis. Characterized by a fish-like odor, itching, and gray pus in the vagina, the likelihood of developing bacterial vaginosis is thought to be increased by having multiple sex partners, which may alter the vaginal environment and cause the condition. Other risk factors include douching and taking baths using perfumes and bubble bath formulas. Women with bacterial vaginosis, even when asymptomatic, are at increased risk of contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), gonorrhea, and chlamydia. If a woman already has HIV, having bacterial vaginosis increases the likelihood of transmitting HIV to her sex partners.
A urinary tract infection (UTI) refers to a medical condition in which bacteria, typically E coli from the digestive tract, enters the urinary system via the urethra, and travels up the rest of tract to the bladder, ureters, and the kidneys. UTIs in women are manifest by a feeling of having to urinate frequently, even though a small amount of urine is expelled, as well as pain in the abdomen and bladder fullness. Those with kidney involvement will generally also present with visible blood and pus in the urine, chills, and fever. Besides E coli, yeast, gonorrhea, and chlamydia may also cause UTI.
Several STDs are characterized by pus in the vagina, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis the number-one curable STD among young women. Caused by Trichomonas vaginalis, trichomoniasis is manifest by foamy, yellow-green pus and itching, though it can be asymptomatic in some people. A potential threat to damaging the female reproductive system permanently, chlamydia is a very common STD which can be spread anally, orally, and vaginally. Symptoms of chlamydia include painful urination and vaginal discharge, though most do not experience any symptoms. In women, gonorrhea, another common STD, also tends to be asymptomatic, as those who do have symptoms experience discharge from the vagina, pain upon intercourse, and bleeding between periods.