The vagina relies on a pH balance to maintain tissue health. If infections or other changes occur, the disrupted pH balance can lead to unusual odors. The following are some examples of these potential causes.
Bacterial vaginosis is a condition that commonly affects women of childbearing age and occurs due to an overgrowth of bacteria.
- unusual or excessive gray or white vaginal discharge
- strong odor that may be described as “fishy”
- itching and burning sensations in the groin.
While the condition can clear up on its own, doctors also prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medicines to reduce the infection’s effects.
Sometimes, an inserted tampon can turn sideways or the tampon string can move up into the vagina. As a result, you may forget about the tampon or have such difficulty removing it that it remains there for longer than intended.
Symptoms of a stuck tampon include:
- discolored, foul-smelling discharge
- pain when urinating
- swelling in or around the vagina.
The cervical opening is not large enough to allow a tampon to go past your vagina. But a trapped tampon can cause serious side effects, including an illness known as toxic shock syndrome.
To keep this from happening, remove the tampon with clean hands and trimmed fingernails as quickly as possible.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affects an estimated 3.7 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source.
While only one-third of people with the condition have symptoms, they include:
- discolored vaginal discharge
- painful urination
- soreness around the groin area
- unusual, fishy odor
Treatments include antifungal medications, such as metronidazole. A person can get trichomoniasis again, even if they were previously treated.
A rectovaginal fistula is an abnormal connection between the rectum and vagina that causes stool and other bowel contents to leak into the vagina.
- smell of intestinal gas coming from the vagina
- abnormal bleeding
- passage of stool through the vagina
Treatment includes treating the underlying conditions and surgical correction.
Hormonal changes due to menopause can lead to the thinning of vaginal tissues, which can affect the pH balance in the vagina. This can cause an unusual, acidic smell.
While the smell doesn’t necessary require treatment, doctors can treat menopause-related vaginal atrophy with topical or oral hormones.
Cervical or vaginal cancer
Cancers of the cervix or vagina do not usually cause symptoms until their later stages. However, some people may notice:
- unusual bleeding
- pain during sex
- unusual vaginal discharge that may smell foul
Treatments depend upon the cancer type and if it has spread. They may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.