Vaginal discharge that is gray may indicate a health issue. Potential causes of gray vaginal discharge include bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection, certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and, rarely, vaginal cancer.

Healthy vaginal discharge is typically clear or white with no strong odor.

This article discusses potential causes of gray vaginal discharge alongside symptoms and treatment. It also considers when to contact a doctor.

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BV is the most common cause of gray vaginal discharge. It is also the most common vaginal infection in those of reproductive age, affecting 5–70% of this population.

BV occurs when there is an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria in the vagina. Doctors do not consider BV an STI, although it is more common in sexually active people.

A person may also be at higher risk of developing BV if they:


Some individuals do not have symptoms of BV. In those who do have symptoms, they may include:


A doctor will typically prescribe antibiotics to treat BV. These include clindamycin and metronidazole.

A doctor will advise if a person should take the antibiotics orally or apply them vaginally.

A yeast infection occurs due to an overgrowth of the fungus Candida in the vagina. The discharge from a yeast infection is usually thick and white. However, a yeast infection may cause gray discharge in some cases.

The consistency of the discharge may be thick and lumpy, similar to cottage cheese. Discharge from a yeast infection also does not usually have a noticeable odor.


Symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • thick discharge with a cottage cheese consistency that is usually white and odorless
  • severe vaginal itching
  • pain during urination
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • redness, burning, and swelling of the vulva and vagina
  • general soreness in the vaginal area


A person can treat the condition with over-the-counter antifungal medication for yeast infections. These may be oral tablets, creams, ointments, or suppositories for vaginal insertion.

A doctor may also prescribe a single dose of antifungal medication, such as fluconazole.

Chlamydia is a common STI that often does not cause symptoms. One potential symptom of chlamydia is unusual vaginal discharge.

If a person does not treat the infection, it may result in severe complications such as infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Anyone who is sexually active can get chlamydia. Using protective barrier methods, such as condoms, can greatly reduce the risk of contracting chlamydia.


Symptoms of chlamydia can include:

  • pus-like discharge that may have a strong odor
  • a burning sensation during urination
  • abdominal pain
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • nausea
  • fever


A doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat chlamydia.

A person should inform any sexual partners they have had in the last 60 days of their infection. They should also avoid sexual contact until their treatment is complete.

Trichomoniasis is an STI that may not cause symptoms in some people. However, it can cause vaginitis, which is an inflammation of the vagina that can cause gray-green discharge.


Symptoms of trichomoniasis can include:

  • gray- or yellow-green vaginal discharge
  • vaginal odor
  • pain during urination
  • discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • vaginal itching and burning
  • general soreness of the vagina and vulva


A doctor can treat trichomoniasis with antibiotics.

A person can greatly reduce their risk of getting trichomoniasis by using condoms correctly during sexual intercourse.

They should avoid sexual intercourse until their treatment is complete and inform current or recent sexual partners of their diagnosis.

Cancer that begins in the vagina is rare and may not cause noticeable symptoms.

Researchers do not know the exact causes of the cancer, although certain factors may increase a person’s chance of developing it. These include:


Symptoms of vaginal cancer include:


Treatment for vaginal cancer may include:

Typical vaginal discharge is usually white or clear in color. Someone should contact a doctor if they have gray vaginal discharge or discharge of any unusual color, odor, amount, or consistency.

Gray vaginal discharge is usually a symptom of BV. A doctor can treat BV with antibiotics or help rule out other potential causes of unusual discharge.

A person should discuss their symptoms, sexual activity, and health history with a doctor or healthcare professional to ensure they receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Individuals can also regularly test for STIs with a healthcare professional or home testing kit.

Discover our color-coded guide to vaginal discharge and what it can mean.

Bacterial vaginosis is the most common cause of gray discharge. Other potential causes include yeast infections, STIs such as chlamydia and trichomoniasis, and, rarely, vaginal cancer.

If someone does not receive treatment for conditions such as BV, yeast infections, and STIs, they may result in more severe complications.

Treatment for common causes of gray discharge usually involves antibiotics.

A person should contact a doctor or healthcare professional if they notice gray or unusual discharge, as this typically indicates a health problem.