Leukorrhea: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms & Treatment!
Have you heard about the term “leukorrhea,” also known as “leucorrhea” or “leucorrhoea”? They are all the same and they describe a normal process in the woman`s body, if there`s no other symptom to accompany it.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Physiologic Leukorrhea?
- 2 What Is the Cause of Leucorrhoea?
- 3 What Is Leukorrhea in Early Pregnancy?
- 4 Is Leukorrhea Sticky?
- 5 Composition
- 6 Abnormal Spleen Function
- 7 Symptoms & Signs
- 8 Types of Leukorrhea
- 9 Diagnosis
- 10 Treatment
- 11 Natural Remedies
What Is Physiologic Leukorrhea?
Leukorrhea is a medical term that describes a thick white discharge, sometimes whitish-yellowish. The vagina is like a passageway between the body`s exterior and the internal reproductive organs of the woman. The vaginal pH is acidic, acting against the development of infections. This acid environment contains normal micro-organisms that form within the vagina. A healthy vagina produces discharges to clean and regulate itself, the same way the saliva cleans and controls the environment of the oral cavity. Any damage of the delicate balance of the vaginal discharges favors the formation of an environment conducive to infections.
Read more on How Late Can a Period Be Before You Should Worry?
What Is the Cause of Leucorrhoea?
There are multiple causes when this happens, the most frequent being a hormonal (estrogen) imbalance. The quantity of discharge can increase when vaginal infections or STDs are involved, and can disappear and reappear on occasion. It can also be a non-pathological symptom involving inflammatory conditions of the vagina or cervix.
What Is Leukorrhea in Early Pregnancy?
Leukorrhea is a normal vaginal discharge that occurs in early pregnancy and is usually nothing to worry about. As long as this discharge is thin and white, somehow milky and mild smelling, everything should be fine. However, during pregnancy you shouldn`t use any tampons when dealing with this type of discharge as they may introduce new types of germs into your vagina.
If you are asking yourself what causes leucorrhea in early pregnancy, you should know that during this period of time, your body steps up the estrogen production, which in turn will stimulate the organism`s mucous membranes and increase blood flow in the pelvic area.
Is Leukorrhea Sticky?
This sort of discharge shouldn`t have any odor, or should at least have a scent quite mild. As mentioned above, this vaginal discharge has a white, milky color and a thick, sticky consistency at times. This discharge is in fact a combination of secretions from the cervix and vagina, old cells shed from the vagina, and normal bacterial flora from within the vagina.
This discharge contains:
- Lactic acid.
- Complex alcohols and glycols.
- Ketones & aldehydes.
- Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium.
- Epithelial cells & leukocytes.
All women have vaginal discharges. A white clear discharge can most of the times be considered a normal discharge, which most of the times will become yellowish when it dries on the underwear. The changes of normal discharges can appear as a result of many causes, including menstrual period, emotional or physical factors of stress, diet, pregnancy or medication.
The Effects of Menstrual Period
A menstrual period affects the vaginal environment. The woman may notice an increased genital moisture and clear discharge between periods. The vagina`s pH fluctuates during the menstrual cycle, being the most acid in the days before and after menstrual period. The infections are most frequent during this period.
There are 2 types of leukorrhea: physiological and inflammatory. The first type is described of almost all women and is the result of the defense mechanisms of the organism to restore the chemical balance of the vagina. Also, the discharge keeps the vaginal flexibility of the adjacent tissues. Appears when the estrogenic balance is increased.
The inflammatory leukorrhea appears when the vaginal mucosa is swollen and congestive. Often, a thick white discharge with odor can indicate an infection. This type of leukorrhea also contains the vaginal discharge caused by STDs or postpartum (lochia).
The main cause of leukorrhea at women is hormonal imbalance. It may also be due to inadequate hygienic habits and iron deficiency anemia. Women with diabetes can also show abundant leukorrhea. Vaginal discharges can also trigger a milky white discharge associated with pruritus. Sometimes indigestion and constipation result in increased leukorrhea.
Abnormal Spleen Function
Leukorrhea secondary to the loss of normal function of the spleen is an excessive white discharge, somehow mucoid, and occurs due to pathological changes of the spleen. It`s accompanied by signs such as:
- Loss of appetite.
- Abdominal distension.
- Sense of weakness in the lower limbs.
Symptoms & Signs
Leukorrhea is a term that describes biological fluids contained or eliminated by the vagina. Actually, leukorrhea is a symptom and not a disease. It`s the expression of a functional or organic condition. Although the symptom can appear in a variety of constitutional or systematic conditions, often is just the result of damages to the reproductive organs. The symptom can appear at any age, during childhood, in the reproductive period or in menopause or senescence.
Although leukorrhea may accompany various local or systematic diseases, it`s a predominant symptom in a particular group of diseases. If it`s carefully investigated, it can lead to the discovery of severe injuries like neoplasms, tuberculosis, syphilis or other diseases.
This kind of discharge can have a different color, consistency or odor. While most vaginal discharges are normal and reflect various stages of the menstrual period, some of them can be the result of an infection, such as the ones with sexual transmission.
Any discoloration or change in quantity or odor can be a sign of vaginal infection. Vaginal infections are very common, most women suffering at least one such infection during their life.
The following signs can indicate a vaginal infection:
- Thick white discharge: itching, rash or local redness;
- Persistent and abundant leukorrhea;
- Skin burning sensation during urination;
- Yellowish vaginal discharge, greenish, unpleasant odor, milky.
Types of Leukorrhea
- Cyclical – a discharge with no odor which appears at the beginning and ending of the menstrual period and is normal;
- Ovulatory – thick white discharge after ovulation;
- Amniotic liquid or the rupture of the fetal membranes – clear discharge, modifies the vaginal pH over 4.5 and appears during pregnancy;
- Candidiasis – thick milky white discharge, appears in the yeast infection, inflamed cervix;
- Trichomoniasis – copious discharge, greenish, clotted;
- Gonorrhea – purulent discharge, unpleasant odor;
- Chlamydia – purulent smelly discharge;
- Bacterial vaginosis – greenish thin discharge with rotten fish odor.
The term of gonorrhea is often used to describe the discharge of mucus from urethra and vagina, and this can lead to an excess of vaginal discharge.
It must include the visualization of the vulva, vagina and cervix to discover any injuries, and a bimanual exam for pelvic tumor masses or sensitivity to mobilize gonorrhea.
To establish the etiologic diagnosis in case of abundant leukorrhea, it`s recommended for the following procedures to take place:
- Fresh smear examination of vaginal and cervical discharge, the exam with dark field being sometimes required;
- Giemsa stained smears;
- Routine cultures or on special environments;
- The evaluation of cell content through smear microscopy, as an indicator of estrogenic activity;
- Biopsy can be recommended for histological diagnosis;
- Determination of vaginal and cervical pH.
Vaginal pH Testing
The vagina`s pH is normal acidic (3.8 – 4.5). The leakage of the amniotic fluid increases the pH above 4.5. Also bacterial overpopulation, as it happens in bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis, can increase pH. Yeast infections doesn`t alter vaginal pH.
PCR Test and Rapid Detection of AG
The test of amplification of the nucleic acid and of the rapid detection of antigens carried out on a sample from the vaginal fluid is indicated for the diagnosis of trichomoniasis; the reading time is of 45 minutes.
The therapy is guided depending on the leukorrhea`s etiology – it contains only hygienic-dietary changes or associating local or/and systematic antibiotic or antifungal treatment.
Nutrition is important when it comes to vaginitis and leukorrhea – it`s recommended to reduce the intake of refined carbohydrates and increase the protein consumption to acidify urine and discharges. Foods rich in lactobacillus should be consumed frequently, such as yogurt, unpasteurized sour milk and kefir. Useful supplements include vitamin C to increase colon`s tolerance, vitamin complex B (50-200 mg/day), vitamin A (10.000-25.000 UI/day for maximum 1 month), vitamin E (400 UI/day) and citrate zinc (50 mg/day). In case of vaginal candidiasis, a diet with lactobacillus and bifido bacteria will help restore a normal intestinal flora as well as the consumption of vegetables rich in fructo-oligosaccharides which are exclusively fermented by these bacteria.
Advices to Prevent Leukorrhea
- Personal hygiene is important in preventing any type of infection; the genital area should be kept dry after every shower;
- Excessive showers aren`t recommended, especially when using irritant products that could destroy vaginal micro-organism, worsening leukorrhea;
- If leukorrhea is abundant, it`s recommended to use external pads until medical consult;
- The medical consult is important to prevent the extension of the infection towards the uterus and fallopian tubes;
- It`s recommended to stay hydrated and follow a healthy diet;
- It`s recommended to avoid frequent sexual contacts and repeated masturbation;
- Diabetic women should control their blood sugar regularly;
- It isn`t recommended to wear tight or synthetic underwear;
- Protected and monogamous sex is one of the important factors in preventing recurrent vaginal infections;
- It`s not recommended to use genital lubrication oils;
- Avoid using deodorants or perfumes in the genital area;
- Clean from the genital area`s anterior to posterior after urination or defecation.
- Lady`s mantle tea – You need a teaspoon of lady`s mantle herbal in a cup of boiling water and leave it for 30 seconds (if the plant is fresh). You then need to filter it and drink up to 3 cups of such tea per day.
- Yarrow sitz baths – When experiencing leucorrhea, you can take yarrow sitz baths once or twice a week, not more. You need to put 100g of plant to soak in a recipient of 5l of water and leave it overnight. The next day, warm up the mixture, filter it and add in your bathtub. The water level should cover the kidneys. Don`t stay for more than 20 minutes in the water. When leaving the bathtub, don`t use a towel to dry your body. Instead, put a thick coat and lie on your bed for an hour to sweat abundantly.
- Knotweed tea – You need to boil a teaspoon of knotweed plant in a cup of water and leave it for 30 seconds (if the plant is fresh). Then filter it and drink 2 cups a day using small sips.
- Walnut tea washes – Put 2 full teaspoons of walnut leaves in a half of liter recipient of cold water and leave for 12 hours to soak. Then the mixture is warmed up, filtered and then the resulted tea is used to make vaginal washes. You should use an irrigator or vaginal cannula.
- Preventing leokorrhea can also be made by using alkaline soaps for your intimate areas and following a healthy diet, which includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You should avoid sweets, spices, pickles, fried food, fat meat and coffee. Frequent vaginal washes can lead to infections.