Abnormal Vaginal Discharge: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Diet & Lifestyle
Abnormal vaginal discharges require diagnosis and treatment prescribed by a gynecologist. He may include oral medication, ointments, pessaries or local irrigation. If you are bothered by an abnormal (pathological) abundant discharge, you shouldn`t use vaginal showers and try to eliminate them (if the doctor didn`t recommend it). They may also remove the good bacteria from the vagina, increasing the chances of irritations or infections and can have an adverse effect – the discharges may become more abundant.
Table of Contents
- 1 About Abnormal Vaginal Discharges
- 2 Causes
- 3 Symptoms
- 4 How Menstrual Period Influences Vaginal Discharges?
- 5 When to Contact a Doctor?
- 6 What to Expect & What Doctor to Contact?
- 7 Diagnosis
- 8 Treatment
- 9 Diet & Lifestyle
- 10 Conclusions
About Abnormal Vaginal Discharges
In general, abnormal vaginal discharges represent a change from the characteristics of a normal discharge as flow, color, consistency or odor. The most common aspects of abnormal vaginal discharges are:
- Whitish-grayish discharge, a fluid with a bad “fishy” odor – this is often caused by bacterial vaginosis and may appear at women of all ages (including children.) Although it isn`t a STD, the risk of getting this disease is increased after sexual contact. The “good’ bacteria are replaced by other species of bacteria. It can also lead to local pain or itching.
- Whitish, dense, milky, abundant discharge with an indistinct odor – This is characteristic to vaginal candidiasis. This fungal infection can be caused by a treatment with antibiotics, but can also be spread through sexual intercourse. Women with diabetes have higher chances to get this disease. Can also cause burning and itching.
- Yellowish discharge, greenish, creamy and in large amount with an unpleasant odor – it`s caused by trichomoniasis, a disease that can be sexually transmitted and which is caused by a parasite. It can lead to itching, burning, pain and swelling in the genital area.
- Abnormal discharge and vesicles in the genital area – clear vesicles with colorless liquid or which were detached and has remained in the small area and it hurts or burns. The aspects are suggestive for genital herpes.
- Abnormal discharge, sometimes greenish with vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain – more often incriminated for these manifestations are chlamydiosis and gonorrhea. These are STDs and sometimes the pain in the lower abdomen or vaginal bleeding can be more significant than the actual discharge.
At the same time, unusual vaginal discharges can also be due to improper hygiene or unnecessary vaginal showering using water and other scented solutions which can affect the balance of the vaginal flora.
Also, vaginal discharges can be caused by bacteria or other pathogens that are sexually transmissible. For this reason not only you but the partner too should be consulted by the doctor, and if required, this too should receive the proper treatment.
There`s also the fixed idea around teenagers that vaginal discharges are very dangerous and that they are a sign of sickness, which is completely not true. Actually, the white discharge that appears at teen girls represents the increased discharge of the vagina and the causes are usually emotional, erotic arousal or mental conflicts.
Other causes of unusual vaginal discharges are: using strong antibiotics, oral birth control pills, Chlamydia, trichomoniasis or gonorrhea, stress or diabetes.
- Discharges accompanied by blood – The resistance of the vagina to infections decreases with age. Because of this, mucosal irritation can give the sensation of itching or burning, and can cause small blood leakage, in some cases the sexual intercourse becoming painful. Discharges with blood can indicate an inflammation of the fallopian tubes, prolapsed or ruptured uterus, as well as loss of pregnancy or the presence of tumors.
- Yellow or whitish-yellowish discharges – Such discharges accompanied by burning, itching or pain when urinating can be symptoms of STDs; that`s why is very important to contact a doctor.
- Yellowish-greenish or light-brown discharges – colored discharges, creamy and irritated mucosa are signs of infections with trichomonas. In case that the infection is associated with urinary infections, the sexual act becomes extremely painful and unpleasant.
Light grey discharges, abundant, can indicate a bacterial infection, and the most frequent cause is represented by a lack of proper hygiene from one or both partners.
Light green discharges occur especially at pregnant women, persons who have diabetes or when treatments with penicillin or other strong antibiotics, and indicates the presence of a fungal infection.
- Bacterial vaginosis;
- Uterine cervical cancer;
- Chlamydia infection;
- Genital warts;
- The woman`s health;
- Levuriform yeast infections.
Vaginal discharges are normal if they fall in a range with certain limits and is very likely to confront yourself at least once in your life with this type of infection.
The most frequent is known as bacterial vaginosis – common vaginal disorder that is determined by the excessive proliferation of saprophytic bacteria in the vagina.
Candida albicans is a fungus which belongs to the family of yeasts and it exists normally in small doses in the gastrointestinal tract where it co-exists with various other good or bad bacteria.
Issues appear when the balance between Candida and other good bacteria inclines in the favor of Candida (often due to treatments with antibiotics), creating the so-called over-growth Candida syndrome (Candidiasis). The most frequent manifestations are bloating, intestinal gas, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, depression, repeated vaginal infections.
Acute candidiasis affects the absorption of nutrients at the gastrointestinal level and can affect both the immune system and metabolism in a devastating manner. A lot of doctors offer various diagnoses and applies improper treatments when they should think about Candidiasis.
Candidiasis is a condition which regrettably a lot of people are neglecting it (sometimes even doctors), treating is as a minor issue. However, in reality the consequences can be devastating through the disruption of metabolism and destruction of the immune system. A lot, if not the main majority of conditions, can appear as a starting point from Candida.
Rarely there are people that don`t suffer from Candidiasis, more or less. Treating yourself of Candida is a step towards health recovery, a step towards preventing other diseases from which there may be no going back.
You Aren`t Sure You Have Candida?
You should only answer with YES or NO to these questions:
- Have you ever had vaginal infections characterized by: whitish cheesy vaginal discharge, with itching and burning in the genital area, or frequent urination?
- Have you ever taken antibiotics?
- Have you ever taken birth control pills?
- Have you ever used anti-asthmatic inhalants?
- Are you yearning after sweets?
- Are you yearning after bread? Do you eat bread every day?
- Do you feel the need to drink alcohol? Do you drink alcohol on a regular basis?
- Do you experience intestinal gas, bloating? Are you retching?
- Do you often feel tired or are you getting tired easily?
- Do you have whitish deposits on your tongue when you get up in the morning?
- Do you have depression characterized by not feeling like working?
- Do you often experience headaches?
- Do you experience allergies (itchy skin, itchy throat, allergic cough)?
- Do you experience vaginal itching?
- Do you often have vaginal infections?
- Do you experience itching in the anal area?
If your answer is YES for at least 3 of these questions, there are high chances for you to suffer from candidiasis. In this case, it`s recommended a treatment to control the increase of the disease.
The statistics show that 3 out of 4 women develop this kind of disease sooner or later during a lifetime. Doctors recommend a strict hygiene and proper diet along with a correct treatment with medications.
Vaginal Candidiasis is caused by a microscopic fungus known as Candida albicans. On the surface of the vaginal mucosa there`s a flora that`s permanently present, without causing a genital mycosis. This flora is formed from microorganisms with a protective role, but also from other ones which are potentially dangerous.
Microorganisms with a protective role, such as lactobacillus, actually control the evolution of the fungus from the Candida albicans group.
In certain conditions, the number of fungus increases significantly, and in this case these conditions occur: vaginal candidiasis.
If you noticed these abundant vaginal discharges accompanied by a bad odor, an unusual consistency (watery or creamy) and a grey-whitish or white-greenish color, you need to contact a specialist immediately. All these can be signs of an infection or maybe even more serious medical condition.
Other symptoms that accompany this type of discharges:
- A significant increase in the amount of discharge;
- A sensation of itching or burning;
- Burning, painful urination;
- The presence of blood outside menstrual period.
What Other Symptoms Are to Be Followed?
- Recurrent vaginal infections;
- Constant fatigue, dizziness, bad mood;
- White sticky saliva and whitish deposits on the tongue;
- Abdominal pain, abdominal gas, indigestion;
- Joint pains similar to those caused by arthritis;
- Leaking sinuses;
- Loss or gain of weight without the ability of change;
- Cloudy, inefficient mind;
- Fungus at the toes and legs;
- Recurrent urinary infections, resistant to antibiotics;
- Irritated eyes;
- Red skin spots (eczema, atopic dermatitis);
- Itching and irritation around the anal area or sexual organs;
- Hair loss.
Symptoms of Vaginal Candidiasis
The characteristic manifestation is a white discharge with bad odor, abundant, which irritate mucous membranes and stains the underwear. The discharges are accompanied by itching, irritation and redness of the genital organs, and sometimes the perineum skin cracks even at a gentle touch (for example with toilet paper).
Often, there`s a burning sensation during urination and even pain during sexual contact. However, there are cases in which candidiasis doesn`t lead to any kind of unpleasantries, being detected only during a gynecological exam.
If the immune system fails, the infection spreads throughout the entire body and various symptoms will appear such as dizziness, lack of concentration, headaches, fatigue, ear pain, disorientation, deafness, mood change, burning sensation, fungal infections, muscle aches, eczema, various allergies, depression or increased sensitivity to chemicals or foods.
How Menstrual Period Influences Vaginal Discharges?
Menstruation has a significant effect on the type of discharges that a woman experiences across her life. Did you know that a woman is more expose to an infection before or during her period? And this is because the vagina`s pH varies during the menstrual period, causing a decrease of the level of acidity of the vagina. At about halfway between 2 menstrual periods is perfectly normal to experience an increase in the amount of discharge, this being a sign of ovulation.
When to Contact a Doctor?
When you consider you have an abnormal vaginal discharge, especially when there are also other symptoms that accompany your discharge, contact your family doctor or your gynecologist. If you are unsure, it`s best if you`ll control this symptom then letting your medical condition untreated. Sometimes, an abnormal discharge can also be the only sign of an infectious disease or a tumor.
In general, contact a doctor immediately if:
- You have abnormal vaginal discharges and pain in the lower abdomen;
- You have abnormal discharges and you had a sexual intercourse with a partner who has a STD;
- You have abnormal discharges (which may reappear after treatment), you have a strong thirst, you urinate often, you are tired and you have lost a lot of weight – these may be signs of diabetes;
- You have vesicles or little painful erosions or other injuries in the genital area;
- A little girl who hasn`t reach puberty yet has abnormal vaginal discharges.
What to Expect & What Doctor to Contact?
As mentioned above, you can either contact your family doctor or a gynecologist. Generally, vaginosis and candidiasis can be diagnosed and treated on clinical basis (through a discussion about your symptoms and a consultation.) Other affections require further investigation, which can be achieved only by a gynecologist.
The doctor will ask you a lot of questions related to the appearance and evolution of your symptoms, local hygiene, sexual life and previous gynecologic consultations. You should mention if you take any medication or you have any allergies, as well as any methods you may have tried home to relieve your symptoms.
The clinical consult involves a pelvic examination which is realized on the gynecologic table. You may sense a small pain or have an unpleasant sensation, especially if you have an infection, when the speculum or valves are inserted. These are tools which are used to make a larger space between the vaginal walls and have a better view inside the vagina and cervix.
The diagnosis involves a few different investigations, depending on the suspected cause:
- Vaginosis or Candidiasis – When the symptoms are highly suggestive, other investigations are no longer necessary. A rapid test of the vaginal pH can make the difference between the 2 medical disorders.
- Infections – Harvesting the vaginal discharge (usually using a sterile small stick with wadding at the end) and making a microscopic examination/microbiological cultivation of the sample.
- Malignancies – Taking a Pap test to identify changes precancerous in the cells of the cervix; imaging exams (ultrasound, CT, MRI) to visualize a high tumor formation (it isn`t visible at a clinical exam).
Abnormal discharges are a symptom and not a disease. Therefore, the treatment is for the underlying disease and is targeted:
- Oral or intravaginal antifungal treatment to which it can be added local ointments for candidiasis;
- Oral or intravaginal treatment with metronidazole and clindamycin for vaginosis;
- The treatment for STD diseases require identifying and treating of the infected sexual partners; There`ll be antibiotics prescribed for chlamydia (azithromycin, single dose) and metronidazole for trichomoniasis;
- The elimination of intravaginal foreign body parts; it`s a maneuver followed by a short course with antibiotics;
- The identification of the agent that caused the irritation or allergy and its elimination;
- Surgical excision of the polyps;
- Complex treatment (surgical, radiotherapy, chemotherapy), individualized for tumors.
Diet & Lifestyle
To prevent and ameliorate abnormal vaginal discharges, keep in mind the following recommendations:
- Maintain the genital area clean and dry;
- Avoid soaps with a strong perfume, genital sprays or bubble baths because they can become irritating;
- Avoid tight clothing and synthetic materials (use cotton underwear or underwear that has cotton in the genital area);
- Don`t use intravaginal irrigators. This can modify the normal vaginal flora, which can lead to bacterial vaginosis or chlamydia. More than this, it can push the bacteria already present higher in the vagina causing more serious infections;
- Consume yogurt with probiotic action (contains live bacterial cultures) or take probiotic medication when you are already taking birth control pills, especially if you have already experienced vaginal candidola in the past;
- Maintain your blood sugar at normal values, if you have diabetes;
- If you have a STD, inform your partner that he`ll need treatment and avoid sexual contact until your healing is confirmed. This way, you can avoid having your partner reactivating your infection, even though he may not show any signs;
- Make the Pap test every 3 years or the Pap test plus the HPV test once every 5 years, if you are over 30 years old, so you can detect cervical cancer early.
- Vaginal discharges are normal at every woman, especially in the fertile age. During pregnancy, the flow of these discharges is increased.
- The characteristics of normal vaginal discharges change within a month and in some physiological situations. However, they remain of a transparent, white, yellowish color, with a thin texture, watery or thick, sticky, with a discrete odor and in small or medium amount.
- There are big changes regarding normal discharges from one woman to another, reason for which you need to be aware what is normal for you.
- Any significant deviation from the normal situation (in flow, color or odor) can be a symptom for a genital disorder. Generally speaking, they are accompanied by other local signs as well.
- Vaginitis, candidiasis and other infections are the most common causes for abnormal discharges, but it rarely happens for a tumor to be involved.
- Abnormal vaginal discharges require investigation and treatment offered by a gynecologist.
- Candidiasis and vaginosis are diseases which may reappear at many women, so it can be useful to adapt your hygienic and eating habits to prevent new episodes.