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Date of last update: 10/14/2017.

Forum Name: Gynecology

Question: Ammonia smell and "bleaching" of underwear

 TakeToTheSky - Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:24 pm

For the past 4-5 years I've had some sort of discharge that leaves a strong, foul ammonia-ish smell. The discharge is generally clear (it's hard to tell what discharge is related to my normal cycle and what is related to this problem) It also "bleaches" my underwear (it literally looks like someone threw bleach on the crotch of my underwear). I've been to the doctor several times. Twice she has treated me for bacterial vaginosis, though the tests did not indicate I had such an infection, she said sometimes the tests don't always indicate that the infection is in fact present when it is. The odor continued after each treatment. My pap tests are always normal, though last time she said I had a yeast infection (though I had no itching, burning or white discharge). This treatment did not stop the odor.
Lately I've wondered if it could be a urinary problem. I've had a few UTIs, and I often feel like I need to pee even after I've just urinated, though there is rarely pain. I experienced this odor and discharge in my underwear today, and I was using a tampon, leading me to wonder about the urinary prospect.
A few things to note: I'm 22, I've never been sexually active, I'm not on any medication (I took birth control pills for my skin for about 2.5 years, but have been off of them for about two years), I'm considerably overweight, but I do practice good hygeine and use mild soaps. I can't think of anything I changed in regards to soaps, clothing, etc. when this problem began.
So I guess my question is: what could this be? Constant BV? Some sort of urinary infection? I'm a little tired of going to the doctor and getting the same treatments that don't seem to work. Any advice or insight would be very much appreciated.
 horsegirl101 - Tue Mar 25, 2008 5:41 pm

I have the same problem!
My underwear has a strong smell of ammonia, and i don't believe it is coming from my dishcharge. I have no past with vaginal infections, and this has been going on for about 2 months.
 Debbie Miller, RN - Wed Mar 26, 2008 7:22 pm

User avatar Hello,
Chances are this is related to sweat glands. Some women do notice and describe this as ammonia-like. The more oils in your sweat, the more odor is present. Skin bacteria, mixed with sweat, can produce an odor. This is why washing can help - you remove both the sweat and the odor. Even if you started to sweat right after a shower when bacteria has been washed off it would not smell strong like it does when bacteria are present on the skin.

Diet can play a part in this so you may try switching temporarily to a very bland and reduced fat diet to see if it makes a difference. Vegetables can be offenders (onions, spicy foods).

It is also possible that you have a genetic metabolism that results in a more acidic sweat. The acid environment common with discharge can also explain the bleaching. The best thing you can do there is use pantyliners and change them regularly. There are some that have a deodorant additive like baking soda. You might see if that helps. Otherwise, cleansing the area may be the only thing you can do and of course this has limitations.

I might also add that obesity does aggravate sweating so it is possible you might find this condition improves with weight loss.

I hope you can find answers to your concerns. Because this is rarely symptomatic of serious illness, it does not get a lot of medical attention.

Best wishes.

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