Why Does My Discharge Smell Sour? Understanding the Causes and Solutions

Vaginal health is an essential aspect of a woman’s overall well-being. However, there are times when unusual symptoms arise, leading to concerns and questions about what could be going wrong. One common issue that many women face is the presence of a sour-smelling discharge. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this unpleasant odor and provide insights into its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. By understanding the underlying factors, you can take proactive steps towards maintaining optimal vaginal health.


Vaginal discharge is a normal and necessary function of the female reproductive system. It helps keep the vagina clean by flushing out dead cells and bacteria. Normally, vaginal discharge has a mild odor or may even be odorless. However, when the discharge takes on a sour smell, it may indicate an underlying issue that needs attention.

Common Causes of Sour-Smelling Discharge

  1. Bacterial vaginosis (BV): BV occurs when there is an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. The overgrowth of harmful bacteria leads to an increase in discharge with a strong, fishy odor.
  2. Yeast infection: Candida, a type of fungus, is responsible for causing yeast infections. When there is an overgrowth of Candida, it can result in a thick, cottage cheese-like discharge with a sour odor.
  3. Trichomoniasis: This sexually transmitted infection (STI) is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Along with a foul-smelling discharge, other symptoms may include itching, redness, and pain during urination.
  4. Poor hygiene: Inadequate hygiene practices, such as not washing the genital area properly, can lead to the accumulation of sweat, bacteria, and other substances, causing an unpleasant odor.
  5. Retained tampon: Forgetting to remove a tampon after menstruation can lead to bacterial growth, resulting in an intense and unpleasant odor.

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Symptoms Associated with Sour-Smelling Discharge

  1. Unpleasant odor: A distinctive sour or fishy smell emanating from the vaginal area is a common symptom associated with sour-smelling discharge.
  2. Abnormal color and consistency: The discharge may appear yellowish, greenish, or grayish. It may also be thicker or more watery than usual.

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