Vaginal Discharge: Causes, Types & Treatment

Vaginal Discharge: Causes, Types & Treatment

Vaginal discharge is a normal bodily function that helps to clean and moisturize the vagina. It is made up of secretions from the cervix and vagina as well as bacteria and yeast that are present in the vagina. The amount, color, and consistency of vaginal discharge can vary depending on a number of factors, including a person’s age, menstrual cycle, and overall health.

Vaginal discharge consist of whitish fluid and cells released from the vaginal, discharges at times varies from whitish to off white (cream like). It comes sticky or watery as the case may be and likely with an odour.

Many questions has been asked as to whether vaginal discharge is normal or not? Not all vaginal discharges are abnormal but when the fluids produced by the glands in the vaginal and cervix moves bacteria and dead cell away through a discharge, then discharge can be said to be normal as this procedure is to help keep the vaginal clean and also to prevent being infected.

Types Of Vaginal Discharge

While there are several types of vaginal discharge, it is important to pay attention to any changes and see your doctor if you experience abnormal discharge, as it could be a sign of an underlying condition that needs to be treated.

Normal discharge:

Normal vaginal discharge is a clear or white fluid that is released from the vagina. It helps to keep the vagina clean and healthy by flushing out bacteria and dead cells. This is the most common type of discharge and is typically thin, clear or milky, and has a mild, slightly musky smell  The amount and consistency of discharge can vary depending on a person’s menstrual cycle.

Infectious discharge:

This type of discharge is caused by an infection, such as a yeast infection or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Vaginal discharges with unpleasant odour that’s yellowish, green, cheese-like accompanied by itching and burning sensations is not normal,  it is a pointer to an infection. An infection can cause changes in the color, odor, or consistency of vaginal discharge. For example, a yeast infection can cause thick, white discharge that has a cottage cheese-like consistency. Bacterial vaginosis can cause gray or white discharge with a strong fishy odor. A sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause abnormal discharge, as well as pain or bleeding during intercourse and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as itching, burning, or pain.

Abnormal discharge:

This type of discharge may be caused by a hormonal imbalance, a reaction to certain medications, or a change in the pH balance of the vagina. It may be thin or thick, and may have a different color or odor than normal discharge. Abnormal discharges may also be due to infections or sexually transmitted diseases like bacterial vaginitis, gonorrhea,  yeast infection, trichomoniasis, cervical cancer or ovarian cancer.

Vaginal discharge can vary in color and consistency, and can be a sign of various health conditions. Some common colors of discharge and their meanings are:

Clear & stretchy: This is normal and may indicate ovulation. It is said to be a fertile secretion (mucus).

White & thick: This can be yeast infection or a sign of too much estrogen.

Yellow or green: This can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Gonorrhea or in some cases Trichomoniasis.

Pink or light brown: This may be due to slight spotting or implantation bleeding during early pregnancy.

Dark brown: This may be due to old blood leaving the body, irregular menstrual cycle or a sign of a more serious issue like cervical cancer.

However, it is important to note that discharges comes in various forms ranging from;

1. The cervical mucus: This discharge is produced by the cervix and its prone to changes during menstruation or when a woman is pregnant.

2. Seminal fluid: These are discharges from the sperms released in a woman’s vaginal during an intercourse, The sperm may stay in the vaginal for few hours and then comes out as a discharge.

3.Arousal fluid: When a woman is sexually aroused, a fluid is produced in the vaginal which helps to grease the vaginal, though it vanishes within the period arousal lasted.

There are several causes of vaginal discharge, including:

Hormonal changes: The levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body can affect the amount and consistency of vaginal discharge. For example, during pregnancy, estrogen levels increase, which can cause an increase in discharge.

Infections: Bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection, and STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can all cause vaginal discharge.

Medications: Certain medications, such as birth control pills and antibiotics, can affect the pH balance of the vagina and cause abnormal discharge.

Poor hygiene: Not properly cleaning the vagina and surrounding area can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast, leading to abnormal discharge.

It is also important to understand the potential risks and complications that can arise If an infection is left untreated, some infections that cause abnormal discharge can lead to more serious health problems. For example, untreated STIs can cause infertility, while untreated bacterial vaginosis can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.

Pay attention to your body and any changes in your vaginal discharge. If you experience any unusual changes, such as an increase in discharge, a change in color or smell, or the presence of other symptoms like itching or burning, then there is a need to see a health professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment for vaginal discharge will depend on the underlying cause. If the discharge is caused by an infection, treatment may include antibiotics or antifungal medication. If it is caused by a hormonal imbalance or a reaction to medication, treatment may involve adjusting the medication or hormone levels..

There are also several things you can do to help prevent abnormal vaginal discharge. These include:

Get an antifungal cream, it’s meant for yeast infection. Apply as prescribed by your doctor

Practicing good hygiene and taking other precautions  such as washing the vagina and surrounding area with warm water. a gentle, unscented soap. Avoid using perfumed soaps, bubble baths, and other products that may irritate the area. You can wash with a mild and not a harsh soap, Remember the vaginal is said to be ‘self cleansing’. Avoid douching, as it can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina. Be sure you keep a good hygiene, also keep the genital area clean.

Change your undies as the need arises.

Change tampons and pads regularly: During menstruation, it’s important to change pads and tampons every 4-8 hours, depending on the flow. Using a tampon or pad for an extended period of time can increase the risk of infections.

Using condoms during sex: Condoms can help prevent the transmission of STIs, which can cause abnormal discharge.

Visit your doctor regularly for check-ups and screenings, as they can help identify any potential issues early on and provide appropriate treatment.

Further tips to maintain a good vaginal hygiene

Wearing breathable underwear: Choose underwear made from natural fibers, such as cotton, to help keep the area dry and prevent the growth of bacteria and yeast. This also allows for better air circulation and can help prevent moisture from building up. Avoid wearing tight or synthetic clothing. Wearing tight-fitting pants or synthetic underwear can create a warm and moist environment, which can increase the risk of infections.

After using the toilet, wipe from the front to the back, this is necessary to prevent bacteria from spreading from the anus to the vagina and urinary tract This will also reduce the chances of developing infections.

Take regular showers or baths: Regular showers or baths can help remove any discharge or sweat from the vulva and vagina, reducing the risk of infections.

Use unscented sanitary products: Sanitary pads and tampons that contain fragrances can cause skin irritation and alter the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina. It’s best to use unscented options instead. Change pads and tampons frequently to prevent the buildup of bacteria.

Practice safe sex: Engaging in sexual activity can increase the risk of infections, especially if proper protection is not used. It’s important to use condoms and practice safe sex to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

Change wet clothing immediately: It’s important to change into dry clothing as soon as possible after getting wet, whether from swimming, working out, or sweating. Keeping wet clothing on for an extended period of time can create a warm and moist environment, increasing the risk of infections.

Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water: Maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated can help keep the body healthy and reduce the risk of infections. Eating a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals, and drinking plenty of water, can help keep the vulva and vagina healthy.

By following these tips, you can maintain good vaginal hygiene and reduce the risk of abnormal vaginal discharge and other related infections.

It’s also important to keep in mind that discharge is a normal part of vaginal health and can change throughout your menstrual cycle, however, if the color or consistency of discharge changes dramatically, or accompanied by strong odor or discomfort, it’s advisable to see a doctor to determine the cause.They can perform a pelvic exam and take a sample of your discharge to determine if there is an infection or an underlying issue that needs to be addressed and also to provide appropriate treatment.

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