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A vaginal wet mount (sometimes called a vaginal smear) is a test to find the cause of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina and the area around the vagina(vulva).
Vaginitis is often caused by an infection, but it may also be caused by a reaction to vaginal products such as soap, bath oils, spermicidal jelly, or douches. Vaginitis may cause symptoms such as vaginal itching, pain, or discharge.
Infections that can cause vaginitis are common and include:
A vaginal sample may be tested by:
A vaginal wet mount is done to find the cause of vaginal itching, burning, rash, odor, or discharge.
Do not douche, use tampons, or use vaginal medicines for 24 hours before the test.
A vaginal wet mount is not done during your menstrual period. Menstrual blood on the slide can change the results.
If you are or might be pregnant, tell your doctor before the vaginal wet mount is done.
You will take off your clothes below the waist and drape a gown around your waist. You will then lie on your back on an examination table with your feet raised and supported by stirrups. This allows your doctor to look at the genital area.
Your doctor will put a smooth, curved speculum into your vagina. The speculum gently spreads apart the vaginal walls, which allows your doctor to see the inside of the vagina and the cervix.
Samples of fluid inside the vagina are taken with a swab or spatula. The sample is put on a slide for testing.
You may feel some discomfort when the speculum is inserted, especially if your vagina is irritated and tender. There may be a small amount of bleeding after this test.
There are no problems from collecting a sample of vaginal secretions.
A vaginal wet mount (sometimes called a vaginal smear) is a test to find the cause of vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina and the area around the vagina (vulva). Your doctor may talk to you about the results after the test. If the sample needs to be looked at by a lab, the results may be ready in 1 to 2 days.
No abnormal vaginal discharge is present. A small amount of discharge is normal.
A white, lumpy discharge that looks like cottage cheese may mean a vaginal yeast infection is present. A yellow-green, foamy discharge that has a bad odor may mean trichomoniasis is present. A thin, gray-white vaginal discharge with a strong fishy odor may mean bacterial vaginosis is present.
No yeast, bacteria, trichomoniasis, or clue cells are found on the slide. White blood cells are not present or very low in number.
High numbers of white blood cells often mean a vaginal infection. Yeast cells found on the wet mount mean a vaginal yeast infection is present. Trichomonads on the wet mount mean trichomoniasis is present. Clue cells means bacterial vaginosis is present. If many Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria are present, this also may mean bacterial vaginosis is present.
No yeast is found.
Yeast cells means a yeast infection is present.
Vaginal pH is 3.8–4.5.
Vaginal pH is higher than 4.5.
Adding potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution to vaginal discharge does not cause a fishy odor.
A fishy odor made by the whiff test means bacterial vaginosis is present.
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
Epstein A, Subir R (2010). Vulvovaginitis. In Management of Common Problems in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 225–230. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Other Works Consulted
Eckert LO, Lentz GM (2007). Infections of the lower genital tract. In VL Katz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 569–606. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier. Epstein A, Subir R (2010). Vulvovaginitis. In Management of Common Problems in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 225–230. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah A. Marshall, MD - Family Medicine E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Deborah A. Penava, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofOctober 6, 2017
Current as of:
October 6, 2017
Sarah A. Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Deborah A. Penava, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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