Normal vs Abnormal Vaginal discharge
This is one of the major concerns of my female patients, especially teenagers. They get worried if they have issues with their vaginal health and most of them are shy to ask anything related to it.
So before understanding the abnormal vaginal discharge, you must know what is normal vaginal discharge
What is Vaginal Discharge?
It is the secretion from your vagina. The medical term used for the fluid that comes out from your vagina is Vaginal Discharge. It can be thin or thick, watery or pasty. Normally it is clear but it can be bloody during menses. It can be without smell or with a bad smell, depending on your hygiene.
What Is Abnormal Vaginal Discharge?
Abnormal vaginal discharge means abnormal colour (brown, green), and odour of your vaginal discharge. Most of the time it is accompanied by itching and burning sensation of the skin of the vagina and the surrounding area (vulva).
What causes Vaginal Discharge?
It is produced by glands which are present in your vagina. When exposed to air, the colour may change to white or yellow.
What causes increase in the amount of normal vaginal discharge?
During ovulation (when your ovary releases an egg), the amount of vaginal discharge will be more because of hormonal changes. It also increases during pregnancy because during pregnancy the level of hormones like estrogen and progesterone is high in your body.
Also, when you get sexually excited, the amount of vaginal discharge increases and that is normal. It is your body’s response to prepare your vagina for sexual intercourse. It has lubrication purpose and also helps in pregnancy by helping sperms to move easily so they can reach the egg to fertilise it.
What causes abnormal Vaginal Discharge?
There are many reasons for abnormal vaginal discharge.
Most common are infections. If you get any of the sexually transmitted disease (STDs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea (GC), and trichomoniasis or fungal infection, then that will result in abnormal vaginal discharge. Sometimes the bacteria (friendly bacteria) which lives in your vagina will overgrow. That also can result in abnormal vaginal discharge. The medical term used is Bacterial Vaginosis.
What are the Non-infectious causes of vaginal discharge and itching?
During menopause, your estrogen level will decrease which will result in dryness of your vagina. The medical term is Atrophic Vaginits. It could become the cause of itching.
Sometimes you can forget your tampon. That can cause vaginal discharge and itching. Some chemicals like contraceptive jellies, creams, chemicals present in detergents or fabric softeners may irritate your vagina or skin around it.
In extreme cases, cancer of vagina, cervix or fallopian tube can also result in abnormal vaginal discharge.
What can you do at home to prevent it?
The first thing you can do is to keep your vagina and skin around it clean. Just use plain water without soap. You can use warm water (not hot) to clean the area which may provide relief.
Instead of cleaning with towel use hairdryer. Don’t douche (it’s a method to wash the vagina with a mixture of water and vinegar). Many of the douches are available in pharmacy stores. Douching will remove the healthy bacteria from your vagina and will increase the risk of infection. Not only that, it will prevent you from getting pregnant. So if you are planning a pregnancy, you got one more reason to avoid it.
Another common cause of itching, especially in diabetic females, is their out of control blood sugar levels. It’s wise to keep your blood sugar level in the normal range. Consult your doctor and he will modify your medicines to keep it under control.
Wear cotton underclothes than synthetic ones to maintain good airflow and avoid moisture buildup. And lastly, adopt safe sexual intercourse practices. Use condoms and avoid multiple sexual partners to avoid the risk of getting STDs.
When to visit your Doctor?
Consult your doctor if you have fever or pain in your pelvis or belly area along with vaginal discharge. You may have been exposed to STIs/STDs.
What are the tests your doctor will ask for?
If needed your doctor will ask you to get some tests done like the culture of vaginal secretions, complete blood count, wet prep (examination of vaginal discharge under the microscope) or skin biopsy from your vulvar area.
Treatment depends on the cause of your symptoms.