Vaginal Discharge


Q: Is my vaginal discharge normal?
  • A: Most of the time, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal and is healthy. The amount of discharge, odour and colour to a large extent can vary from woman to woman, more so during the different time of the menstrual cycle. Such variations are not considered abnormal or unpleasant by the sexual partners.

    The discharge will be more during ovulation, breast feeding or when a woman is sexually aroused. The odour of the discharge varies considerably in women and is considered normal. In certain cases, poor personal hygiene and lack of fluid intake could lead to strong odour even without obvious infection.

     

    Non of those changes are considered to be harmful. However, if the colour or smell or the consistency is significantly unusual and is associated with vaginal burning or irritation, it is considered as abnormal vaginal discharge. This is very often due to infection.
Q: What causes abnormal vaginal discharge?
  • A: The vagina like any other organ in the body contains abundance of protective bacteria which fights against harmful ones. However, when antibiotics are taken the healthy bacterial flora gets destroyed and harmful ones sets in. Besides, harmful bacteria are also introduced during sexual intercourse or due to improper usage of tampons.
Q: What are the common infections that leads to abnormal vaginal discharge?
  • Yeast infection – it could be a sexually transmitted disease (STD) with thick curd like discharge from the vagina and causes inflammation and irritation.
  • Trichomonal infection – this is a parasitic infection typically contracted by having unprotected sexual intercourse. This causes thick greenish discharge with inflammation and irritation of the vagina.
  • Chlamydia – chlamydia is a nasty infection that is always transmitted by unprotected sexual intercourse. The incidence of blockage of the fallopian tube leading to infertility is about 40% even following a single episode of unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner.
  • Gonorrhoea – a nasty STD causing severe inflammation and discharge of vagina with involvement of the bladder causing frequency and burning sensation during passage of urine
  • Genetal herpes - this is due to virus and can cause extreme pain with either ulcers or growth. The discharge may not be profuse but the entire genital region is inflammed causing severe distress to the patien.t
  • Bacterial vaginosis – this is often due to an infection by gardnerella. This causes severe fishy odour in the vagina and is distressing for the couple.
  • Vaginal atrophy – this is thinning and drying of the vaginal walls and often the labia due to lack of female hormones during menopause or pre-menopause period. There is inflammation as well as irritation although the discharge may not be pronounced.
Q: How does the doctor diagnose abnormal vaginal discharge?

 

  • A: The doctor will start taking the history by asking the following.

    i. When did the abnormal discharge begin?
    ii. What is the colour of the discharge?
    iii. Is there any smell?
    iv. Do you have any itching, pain or burning in or around the vagina?
    v. Do you have more than one sexual partner?
    vi. Do you douche or use tampons?
    vii. Having you taken antibiotics recently?
    viii. Do you have any allergy?
  • Following an internal examination using a speculum, a sample of the discharge will be collected for laboratory culture and for sensitivity. In addition, a pap smear will be done to exclude cancer of the cervix.
Q: Does the examination or the insertion of speculum cause pain?
  • A: No. Unless the person is nervous and tenses the muscles. In some cases, due to severe infection insertion of speculum may cause discomfort.
Q: Is there blood investigation done for abnormal vaginal discharge?
  • A: Yes. If the doctor suspects infection, STD studies are done to both the woman and the partner as well.

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