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Genital Malodor in Women: A Modern Reappraisal

Subramanian, Chithra DGO1; Nyirjesy, Paul MD2; Sobel, Jack D. MD3

Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease: January 2012 - Volume 16 - Issue 1 - p 49–55
doi: 10.1097/LGT.0b013e31822b7512
Review Article

Genital malodor is a common distressing complaint that brings a woman to her physician’s office. Vaginal infections, primarily bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis, still remain the commonest causes and are relatively easy to diagnose and treat. However, in approximately one third of women who present with malodor, no cause is identified. Although data on the management of vaginal discharge are extensive, the management of genital odor beyond common vaginal infections remains poorly studied. This presents a frustrating situation for both the patient and her physician. Often, patients resort to home remedies and over-the-counter preparations, which, while providing short-term relief for some women, almost never address the cause and, in some cases, can exacerbate symptoms. In this review, we have attempted to consolidate the known and documented causes of genital malodor including the nonvaginal causes and provide case studies that will help clinicians understand the possible settings for the various causes. We also provide an algorithm for the management of this symptom beyond vaginal infections.

A discussion of the known and documented causes of genital malodor in the setting of clinical case presentations with an algorithm for management.

1Division of Infectious Diseases, Detroit Medical Center, Detroit, MI; 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA; and 3Division of Infectious Diseases, Harper Hospital, Detroit, MI

Correspondence to: Chithra Subramanian, DGO, Division of Infectious Diseases, Wayne State University, 3990 John R, Detroit, MI 48201. E-mail:

The authors have no financial and conflict of interest to disclose.

©2012The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology