Vaginal Discharge: The Good and Bad

Although many people may not realize it, vaginal discharge is a highly important and functional aspect of the female reproduction system.  This discharge is a fluid that is created by glands within the vagina and cervix.  Vaginal discharge is very necessary because it is responsible for transporting dead cells and unwanted bacteria out of the vagina.  This process is one that maintains the cleanliness of the vagina, and it aids in the protection against infection.

Vaginal discharge is a normal, natural fluid that varies in amount and color amongst different women, and depending on the time of the woman's menstrual cycle.  The color of vaginal discharge can typically range from clear to milky white.  The amount of vaginal discharge can fluctuate also; usually when a woman is sexually aroused or ovulating, she will have more vaginal discharge than at other times.  Also, the odor of vaginal discharge can change depending on whether or not the woman is pregnant or if she has not kept up with her personal hygiene. 

As aforementioned, the color, amount and odor of vaginal discharge can change without the cause for worry.  However, if the discharge is especially strange, then there may be an issue.  If burning or itching occurs within the vagina along with a significant change in vaginal discharge, then it may be because of an infection or some other condition. 

If you do happen to notice a significant change in your vaginal discharge then it could be due to a number of reasons.  The most common explanations for sudden, odd changes in vaginal discharge are the use of birth control pills, steroids, antibiotics, douches, bubble bath, scented soaps or scented lotions.

Other more serious causes can be yeast infections, vaginitis, bacterial vaginosis (this is an infection that is most common in women with several sexual partners or women who are pregnant), chlamydia or gonorrhea (sexually transmitted infections or STIs), trichomoniasis (parasitic infection that usually comes from unprotected sex), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), post surgery pelvic infection, or vaginal atrophy (this occurs during menopause, and it is the drying out and thinning of the vaginal walls).  There can be many causes of strange vaginal discharge; therefore if you are concerned about yours, it is a good idea to see a doctor in order to find out the cause.

There are different types of abnormal discharge.  If you are experiencing an abnormal change, you actually may be able to discern what the cause is based on the way it looks.  If your vaginal discharge is white, yellow, gray and has a foul, fishy odor, then it may be due to bacterial vaginosis.  Other signs of this infection are burning, itching, swelling and redness of the vagina or vulva.  Yellow or cloudy vaginal discharge, especially if you are also experiencing urinary incontinence (unable to hold urine) and/or bleeding between periods, may be from the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea. 

Pain and itching while urinating, along with yellow, greenish or frothy and foul smelling vaginal discharge may be due to trichomoniasis.  If your vaginal discharge happens to be thick, white and/or cheesy, and you are experiencing pain during sexual intercourse, itching or pain and swelling around the vulva, then you may have a yeast infection.  Other types of vaginal discharge that you should definitely pay attention to is if it's brown or bloody.  If you have this kind of discharge, it may mean that your menstrual cycles are irregular; although it is a lot less common, this type of vaginal discharge can be the cause of endometrial or cervical cancer.  This is especially true if you are also dealing with pelvic pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding.

Odd, abnormal discharge can be treated in a number of ways.  Because of the fact that unusual vaginal discharge can be the result of several different things, there is no one particular way to resurrect it.  It is highly important to consult with your doctor if you believe your vaginal discharge is abnormal; this way, they can determine if you should indeed be concerned about your discharge, and if you should, they can let you know why and how to handle it.

As mentioned above, abnormal vaginal discharge can be the result of numerous things.  For example, odd discharge often occurs when a woman is experiencing bacterial vaginosis, and this infection is often cured by antibiotic creams or pills.  Trichomoniasis is another ailment that can cause significant changes in vaginal discharge; this is typically treated with the drug tinidazole (Tindamax) or metronidazole (Flagyl).

If you are unsure about your vaginal discharge, be sure to see a doctor.  During your appointment, the doctor will very likely ask you a few general questions to help determine whether or not you should be worried about your sudden change in discharge.  Typically, your doctor will ask you when your abnormal vaginal discharge began, what color your discharge is, if you are having any itching, painful or burning sensations in or around your vagina, if there is a foul odor, whether or not you use a douche and the amount of sexual partners you have. 

After asking these and possibly other questions, your doctor may take a sample of the vaginal discharge or examine cells from your cervix by doing a Pap test.  This way, your doctor will be able to tell you what your ailment is; unless of course there is absolutely nothing negative connected to your change in vaginal discharge.


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