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Suspicious vaginal discharge can be very troublesome. The trick is to know when to seek treatment. Having a general idea about vaginal discharge and what different types look like may help you seek treatment promptly.

Normal vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge is physiological and completely normal in the vast majority of cases. Drastic changes in vaginal mucus secretion occur throughout the menstrual cycle. As you get closer to day 14 (mid-cycle), cervical mucus gets slippery. During ovulation, mucus is sticky, stringy and watery. During the second part of the cycle after ovulation, it progressively becomes more viscous. Cervical mucus is colorless and odorless unless an infection supervenes.

During pregnancy, estrogen levels in the body go up. Estrogen promotes cervical mucus secretion and vaginal discharge increases in volume.

Abnormal vaginal discharge

Obese women, those with polycystic ovarian syndrome, ovarian granulosa, and cell tumors may experience excessive vaginal discharge. This is also due to unopposed estrogen action.

Infective vaginal discharge is very common. Candidiasis is frequently seen. It is a fungal infection. Diabetics, older women, and immunocompromised women are particularly at risk. Candidiasis presents as itching, clumpy white discharge, a foul smell, lower abdominal pain, dysuria, dyspareunia and backache.

Presentation varies a lot between patients. Diabetics with poor long-term blood sugar control may not have any symptoms other than whitish discharge. They might not feel pain and itching due to diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes causes a poor inflammatory response, thus pelvic inflammation might not follow severe vaginal candidiasis. This is not an advantage because inflammation is protective and infections go unchecked in its absence.

Cervical, endometrial and ovarian cancers can cause vaginal discharge. But these discharges are mostly clear, straw coloured or blood stained. Women above 35 years of age should get themselves checked often as a preventive measure.

What to expect in case of a white vaginal discharge?

Vaginal candidiasis is at the top of the list of possibilities for women with an itchy, white, clumpy discharge that has a foul smell combined with lower abdominal pain, dysuria, dyspareunia, and backache. You should seek treatment promptly before it gets worse.

The gynecologist will take a swab from the upper part of your vagina. You should get the results of the culture in two to three days. It will say if there is any infection.

A PAP smear is a scraped-off sample of the epithelium of the cervix. It is done to exclude the presence of cervical lesions.

An ultrasound scan shows a thin layer of free fluid in the pelvis in case of pelvic inflammatory disease. Fasting blood sugar levels are a must, because many undiagnosed diabetic patients present with infections. Some gynecologists may recommend screening for STDs as well.

Local application of anti-fungal agents is the treatment of choice for vaginal candidiasis. Many different preparations exist. Te duration of treatment varies according to the severity of the infection. If there are any associated complications like pelvic inflammation, the gynecologist might prescribe oral medication as well.

It is your duty to adhere to the prescription. Your symptoms usually subside after 2 to 3 days of treatment, but continue with prescription through to the end.

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