Vaginal discharge consists of physiological secretions necessary for maintaining vaginal hygiene, just like our saliva does for our mouths. It is an effective mode of eliminating harmful substances from the vagina, and also also acts as a defensive barrier. Thus, some amount of vaginal discharge is a physiological occurrence.
Vaginal discharge is a highly subjective phenomenon where some women may have profuse discharge but consider it to be normal, while others may be troubled by a smaller amount of discharge. Normal vaginal discharge is milky white, odorless, non-offensive and adheres loosely to the vaginal walls.
Secretions may be increased during puberty, pregnancy, in the mid-cycle period and before menstruation. Even a larger amount of discharge is considered normal when it is:
- Non-purulent and non-offensive
- Non-irritant and not associated with vaginal itching.
- Not associated with redness
Abnormal vaginal discharge has a few characteristics, and recognizing them will help you know when to seek treatment. Abnormal vaginal discharge could be due to infections, ill health, use of tampons or a pessary, or can be due to the postmenopausal state.
Check the color of your discharge
A change in the color of your vaginal discharge is pathological. Blood-stained thin discharge can be due to erosion or ulcers of the cervix, chemical irritants, polyps, senile vaginitis or even due to cervical cancer. Off-white colored vaginal discharge may be due to an infection termed bacterial vaginosis. Greenish frothy discharge could be due to trichomoniosis. A vaginal yeast infection produces a clotty, white vaginal discharge
Is it offensive? A bad odor in your vaginal discharge denotes infection, specifically a sexually transmitted infection. A fishy smell is commonly found in women who have bacterial vaginosis.
Do you have a vaginal itch along with discharge ? Normal vaginal discharge does not cause any itching. Either it is a yeast allergy, contact dermatitis, or allergy from soaps or douches that can cause this. Avoid all those irritants and you may need an antifungal medication.
Is there any associated urinary complaint? Any increased frequency of urination or a burning sensation on urinating, along with increased vaginal discharge is always abnormal and requires in depth treatment.
Are you experiencing sudden vaginal discharge following sex? Sex with a new partner often carries a risk of sexually transmitted disease. Thus, if you have a sudden, profuse, offensive discharge following sex, there is the risk of an infection and you may need an evaluation.
Is there any associated pain abdomen or fever? Increased vaginal discharge, if associated with pain in the abdomen, indicates an infection transmitted to your upper genital tract. Commonly it is sexually transmitted and needs antibiotics.
Is it a recurrent discharge? Were you previously treated for offensive vaginal discharge? Recurrent vaginal discharge with a past history of similar attacks needing treatment and subsequently being cured signifies a relapse. You may need another visit to your doctor.
What are the next steps?
You need an estimation of vaginal your pH along with a microscopical examination of the secretion. Thus, the infectious agent can be traced and an appropriate medication can be chosen. Avoid sex as long as you are having abnormal vaginal discharge. Drink plenty of water. Maintain local hygiene by wearing clean undergarments and frequently changing sanitary pads.
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