Vaginal discharges are normal. However, in some instances, abnormalities can occur and it’s important for every woman/girl to be alert enough to recognize these changes and on time.
Where do Vaginal discharges come from?
Vaginal discharge is a clear or whitish fluid that comes out of the vagina. Vaginal discharge is a clear or whitish fluid that comes out of the vagina. Discharge is normal, but changes in the amount, consistency, color, or smell could indicate an infection or other problem.
Ever heard this phrase, “The vagina is self-cleansing”? Well, it’s true, and one of the methods with which the vagina cleanses itself and rids itself of foreign bodies is vaginal fluids.
Vaginal discharges are secretions from some glands in the vagina. They help keep the vagina moist to avoid tears or trauma. The vagina environment is also very acidic (mostly lactic acid), with its normal microflora (normal bacteria) and this helps keep the vagina clean and healthy. They also help flush out foreign organisms. However, when these secretions become abnormal in quantity, colour, consistency, or smell, It’s the body’s way of saying… something could be up.
Normal vaginal discharge is the clear, white, or milky (light) fluid that comes out of the vagina. It is odorless, with no associated itching, burning, or pain. It is normal to have a vaginal discharge. Also during the ovulation period, this discharge becomes thicker, stretchy and the colour is raw egg-white (almost colourless). This is a sign of ovulation and this means the mucus plug in the Cervix is ready to allow easy passage of sperm cells into the uterus. The amount of discharge is different for each woman. Some women have a little discharge now and then. Others have discharge every day. Your “normal” discharge might change many times throughout your life.
Vaginal discharges are normal, but changes in the amount, consistency, color, or smell could indicate an infection or other problem. You might also notice changes before or after your period. Changes in vaginal discharge may or may not be a sign that you have a vaginal infection.
Different colours and what they mean:
1. White/ Milky: Normal: No odour. No other symptoms. Normal.
2. Thick and white: Could be a vaginal yeast infection.
Other symptoms: Vaginal itching, burning, soreness, or pain. Some women experience pain when urinating or having sex along with and redness, swelling, or rash around the vulva
3. Red/Dark Brown: Could be menstrual bleeding, or dysfunctional uterine bleeding, irregular menstruation, or a sign of something more serious: tumours, cancers, trauma. The colour depends on the location of the bleed. Frank blood suggests lower Genital bleeding, darker blood maybe upper uterine bleeding.
Other symptoms: Pelvic pain or vaginal bleeding
4. White, yellow, or grey: Bacterial vaginosis
Other symptoms: Fishy odor, itching, and swelling
5. Yellow or green: Trichomoniasis.
Other symptoms; Foul odor, thick or chunky texture
6. Cloudy, yellow: Gonorrhea
Other symptoms: Pelvic pain
Other STIs: Clamydia: Usually symptomless, however if not treated, infection may spread, causing pelvic inflammatory disease with pelvic pain.
Are there other causes of Vaginal Discharge?
Yes there are, not all vaginal discharges are as a result of an infection
1. Foreign bodies: When an outside object is inserted into the vagina, it can trigger discharge. That’s why it’s funny when some “feminine product vendors”, say “If you insert it, what will come out of you will surprise you”. No, it’s just a normal reaction, just like when sand enters your eyes. It doesn’t mean you have an infection, or if you do… that it’s a sign of ongoing treatment. Be guided.
2. Irritation or rash from contact with something (an object or chemical) that causes an allergic reaction. This could be:
• Contact dermatitis
• Mechanical irritation
• Chemical irritation
3. Atrophic vaginitis. This condition is associated with menopause. After menopause, there is a decrease in estrogen. The lower levels of estrogen cause the walls of the vagina to become dry and thinner than normal.
Risk Factors of Vagina Infection
1. Multiple sexual partners or unsafe sex – Sexually transmitted Infections
2. Low immune systems caused by; Poorly treated Diabetes, pregnancy, antibiotic abuse, HIV – Vaginal yeast infection.
3. Also, prolonged used of birth control pills can cause these deviations
When to see a Doctor?
Whenever there’s a deviation from the normal.
Firstly, it’s important for women to pay attention to their discharges as well as the rest of their bodies. That way she can know if there’s something abnormal going on. Sometimes, a milky discharge might mean nothing, especially if your normal has always been milky. However, if there’s a change from the normal colour to something else and there’s associated itching, burning sensation, pain before or during sex, rashes, odor…? Then you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.
How will the doctor help?
The Doctor will throughly take your medical history, clinically examine if need be and send you run some tests to know what’s wrong, if something is wrong.
Even when the suspicion is strong, tests are important. This allows the clinician confirm their diagnosis, isolate the organism responsible and give appropriate treatment. Is it a bacteria or a virus or a fungi, you need to know what you’re treating. The test also reveals which antibiotics are most sensitive against this organism. This is why we advice against self medication and antibiotic abuse. It can cause antibiotic resistance, meaning, the drugs that should help you can no longer help you, because they have grown resistant (In colloquial terms- “See finish”).
Your Doctor will commence you in the treatment plan to help you get rid of these infections from the root. Not just symptoms, but the infection itself, preventing recurrence.
A lot of times, women are deceived into buying promise-all medicines, concoctions, and products. These products might help temporarily relieve these symptoms, leaving the client with the false hope of a treated infection. The recurrence of infections in the near future then creates a sort of dependency on the products. They only feel good and healthy when they take it. Unfortunately this is harmful.
Poorly treated infections cause recurrent vaginal infections and also ascending infections which can lead to:
• Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
PID, if left untreated can cause a lot of damage to the reproductive system. Leading to infertility.
What Are You Treating?
It’s not enough to say, “I have an infection”. What infection do you have? Remember, if you don’t know the organism, you’re treating blindly. Taking antibacterials for a fungal infection is baseless, vis a vis. Please take your health seriously. See a Doctor.
Firstly, not all vaginal infections are sexually transmitted.
Vaginal candidiasis (Yeast infection), is not considered a sexually transmitted disease. Even though it can be transmitted through sexual intercourse in some cases, it is primarily non sexual.
To prevent vaginal infections one has to adopt certain changes:
• Safe sex
• Avoid multiple sexual partners
• Avoid vaginal manipulations (Douching, steaming, inserting edible foods, inserting Yoni pearls, etc)
• Avoid wearing tight/damp underwear (Cotton preferably)
• Wash the Vulva (outer Genital area including the vaginal opening), with water. No need to insert your fingers to wash the vagina itself.
• Exercise regularly
• Avoid scented feminine products.
• more fruits and vegetables
• Probiotics help maintain vaginal health and prevent yeast infections especially.
• Yoghurts are a very good source of probiotics like (Lactobacilli) which is found in the vaginal normal flora
• Stay hydrated
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