Genital malodor in women: a modern reappraisal

J Low Genit Tract Dis. 2012 Jan;16(1):49-55. doi: 10.1097/LGT.0b013e31822b7512.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Odorants / analysis*
  • Trichomonas Vaginitis / diagnosis*
  • Trichomonas Vaginitis / drug therapy
  • Trichomonas Vaginitis / parasitology
  • Vaginal Discharge / diagnosis*
  • Vaginal Discharge / etiology
  • Vaginal Discharge / therapy*
  • Vaginosis, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Vaginosis, Bacterial / drug therapy
  • Vaginosis, Bacterial / microbiology