The vagina serves as a passageway between the reproductive organs and the outside of the body. Vaginal discharge serves an important housekeeping function in the female reproductive system. Fluid made by glands inside the vagina and cervix carries away dead cells and bacteria. This keeps the vagina clean and helps prevent infection. The pH balance of the vagina is acidic, which discourages infections from occurring. This acidic environment is created by normally occurring bacteria call lactobacilli. The color and consistency of vaginal discharge vary from whitish and sticky to clear and watery between your menstrual periods, but also varies on different stages of life.
Some situations like emotional stress, ovulation, pregnancy, sexual excitement can increase the amount of normal vaginal discharge. However, if your vaginal discharge has an unusual odor and appearance, or occurs along with itching or pain, it may be a sign that something’s wrong. Any interference with the delicate balance of vaginal secretions sets up an environment conducive to infection. Vaginal infections are very common, most women will experience some form of a vaginal infection in their lifetime.
SOME OF THE COMMON SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS ARE:
– Discharge accompanied by itching, rash or soreness.
– Persistent, increased discharge.
– Burning on skin during urination.
– White, clumpy discharge (somewhat like cottage cheese).
– Grey/white or yellow/green discharge with a foul odor.
– Bleeding or spotting unrelated to your period.
COMMON CAUSES ARE DUE TO:
• Yeast infection (It is caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast called Candida, usually Candida albicans. This yeast is normally found in small amounts in the human body. A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted illness. However, some men will develop symptoms such as itching and a rash on the penis after having sexual contact with an infected partner).
• Bacterial vaginosis (BV-Bacteria that normally live in the vagina overgrow, causing a grey discharge and fishy odor that worsen after sexual intercourse. BV is usually not sexually transmitted).
• Trichomoniasis (Trichomoniasis is almost always spread through sexual contact. However, the protozoan organism can survive for up to twenty-four hours in a moist environment, making wet towels or bathing suits possible instruments of transmission from someone with the infection).
• Chlamydia & Gonorrhea (considered STD).
• Dermatosis of the vagina.
• Forgotten tampon or foreign body.
• Other infections and sexually transmitted infections.
• Atrophic vaginitis (seen in menopause due to low estrogen levels).
• Cervical or vaginal cancer.
BELOW ARE SOME TIPS FOR PREVENTING VAGINAL INFECTIONS THAT CAN LEAD TO ABNORMAL DISCHARGE:
• Have new partners wear condoms during sexual intercourse.
• Stay healthy; eat well.
• Keep vaginal area clean and dry.
• Wear cotton underwear.
• Wipe from front to back after urination or bowel movement.
• Avoid using deodorant pads or tampons.
• Don’t use petroleum jelly or other oils for lubricants.
• Don’t douche.
• Use medication as long as directed.
• Avoid sexual intercourse until treatment is completed and you are symptom free.
• Don’t scratch infected or inflamed areas; it can cause further irritation.
• If using medication inside the vagina, use it during the menstrual period.
• During an infection, use pads rather than tampons if menstruation occurs.
• Avoid vulvo/vaginal irritants, including perfumed or deodorant soaps/body washes.
If symptoms persist after completing the treatment, an exam is indicated. Call for an appointment, and please use nothing in the vagina for 48 hours prior to your exam.