Vaginal Discharge is a fluid produced by glands inside the vagina and cervix which carries away dead cells and bacteria. This helps to keep the vagina clean and prevents infection. Most of the time vaginal discharge is normal since it is the body’s cleansing process. The amount and type of vaginal discharge also varies among women and with the menstrual cycle. For example, there may be more discharge when you are ovulating, breastfeeding, or sexually aroused. The color also varies (from clear to a milky white-ish) depending on the time and the cause. It may also smell different when you are pregnant or you have been keeping poor hygiene.
However, none of those changes should make you to panic unless the color, smell, or consistency seems quite different than usual, especially when you start having vaginal itching or burning, then you could be dealing with an infection or other condition.
Causes of Abnormal Discharge
Any change in the vagina’s normal bacteria can affect the smell, color, or discharge rate and texture. Below are few things that can cause abnormal vaginal discharge:
- Bacterial vaginosis: Not all women with bacterial vaginosis will have symptoms, but bacterial vaginosis causes vaginal discharge that is thin and grayish-white in color. It is usually accompanied by a foul, fishy smell.
- Gonorrhea: Gonorrhea may not show symptoms in 50% of infected women, but it can also cause burning with urination or frequent urination, it also causes yellowish vaginal discharge, redness and swelling of the genitals, and a burning or itching of the vaginal area.
- Trichomonas: Trichomonas infection causes a frothy, yellow-green vaginal discharge with a strong odor. The symptoms include pain during sexual intercourse and urination, and also irritation and itching of the female genital area.
- Chlamydia: Chlamydia infection may not cause any symptom in many women. While others may experience increased vaginal discharge as well as the symptoms of a urinary tract infection if the urethra is affected.
- Vaginal yeast infection: Vaginal yeast infection is usually associated with a thick, white vaginal discharge that may have the texture of cottage cheese. The discharge is generally odorless. Other symptoms can include burning, soreness, and pain during sexual intercourse or urination.
However, there are still other things that can cause abnormal discharge which includes:
- Use of Antibiotic or steroid
- Birth control pills
- Cervical cancer
- Douching the female genital with scented soaps or lotions, bubble bath
- Pelvic infection after surgery
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Vaginal atrophy, the thinning and drying out of the vaginal walls during menopause
It is wise to go see your doctor whenever you have a change in the color, odor, consistency or amount of vaginal discharge or if you experience other symptoms like pain, burning, or itching of the vaginal area.
Treatment of Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
The treatment of vaginal discharge depends on the type of infection. Antibiotic and antifungal medications are effective in eradicating the major infections causing vaginal discharge
- Bacterial vaginosis: A good number of medications can be used in the treatment of bacterial vaginosis such as metronidazole (Flagyl), tinidazole (Tindamax), and clindamycin cream (Cleocin).
- Gonorrhea: Before now, penicillin was effective in the treatment of uncomplicated gonorrhea. However, new strains of gonorrhea have become too resistant to various antibiotics, including penicillins, and are therefore more difficult to treat. Gonorrhea may be treated by an injection of ceftriaxone (Rocephin) intramuscularly or by oral cefixime (Suprax). And others
- Trichomonas: Trichomonas may be treated either with metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax), taking orally (by mouth) in a single dose.
- Chlamydia: Chlamydia is typically treated by oral azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax) or doxycycline (Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox and others).
- Vaginal yeast infections: This can be treated by topical creams such as butoconazole (Gynazole 1), clotrimazole (Lotrimin), miconazole (Monistat 3, Monistat 5, Monistat 7, M-Zole Dual Pack, Micon 7), and terconazole (Terazol 3, Terazol 7). Nystatin (Mycostatin, bio-Statin, Nilstat) is also available in vaginal tablet form. Oral medications such as fluconazole (Diflucan) can also be used.
Note: It is very important for sex partners to be treated at the same time to avoid re-infection.