An Overview of Vaginal Discharge
What is Normal Vaginal Discharge?
The presence of vaginal discharge is something that should not be a cause for concern to the individual since it is normally present in the individual. The discharge is produced by the glands in the vaginal canal and cervix in order to flush the old cells that line the area. The discharge is important since it keeps the area clean, lubricated so that it is not easily damaged, and removes pathogenic organisms and foreign materials.
Prior to the release of the egg or ovulation, mucus is produced in large amounts in order to prepare the uterus for possible fertilization in pregnancy. Vaginal discharge is present during ovulation since at this stage; the production of mucus is increased up to 30 times which is why most women wear panty liners at this time.
As mentioned, vaginal discharge is normally present and can be described as white or clear, watery, and free from odor with an amount of 4 milliliters or approximately a teaspoon. It is typically composed of normal bacterial flora and fluids released by vaginal cells. However, changes may be observed depending on the menstrual phase, medications taken and sexual activity.
A white and thick vaginal discharge is commonly seen at the start and end of the menstrual cycle, but does not itch; while a transparent but stretchable discharge indicates ovulation. A discharge that is transparent but thin or watery is seen in different phases of the cycle or may be released after strenuous activity.
Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Even though vaginal discharge is normally present in an individual, there are certain characteristics that must be watched out for since it is not indicative of a benign condition. Some of the cardinal signs that there is abnormality would be the presence of itching, an unpleasant odor of the discharge, and a change in color of the discharge aside from white or transparent.
A yellow or green colored vaginal discharge is a sign of infection from bacterial or protozoal pathogens. Discharge from yeast infection may be clumped and thick that it looks like cheese but with an offending odor. Dark brown or black vaginal discharge if clumped may be from old blood that has dried from menstrual period.
Vaginal discharge accompanied rash and sores, feeling of burning of the skin around the vagina, the discharge increasing in amount, pain accompanied by discharge and persistent presence of discharge must be consulted with the doctor or any health care provider since it may be from a serious reason.
What Thing Can Cause
A cause of abnormal vaginal discharge may be the presence of bacterial growth in the vagina or bacterial vaginosis. It usually has a fish like odor, a yellow or gray colored vaginal discharge, and may be accompanied by other symptoms that indicate infection.
The protozoan, Trichomonas vaginalis, is another cause which is commonly transmitted via sexual contact. A moist environment keeps the organism alive that is why wet towels worn for a long time, or bathing suits not washed and worn again are some of the methods by which the protozoan can be transmitted and come in contact with the vaginal canal.
The fungi, Candida albicans, which is part of the normal vaginal flora can become pathogenic and grow abundantly in the area. This results to a cheese-like vaginal discharge accompanied by itching.
There are other organisms that are known as the causes such as Neisseria gonorrheae, Chlamydia trachomatis and other sexually transmitted infections. However, it must be emphasized that more than recognizing the organisms that cause abnormal vaginal discharge, the conditions that make it suitable for the invasion of organisms such as an alkaline environment and weakened resistance that is important since it is here where prevention can be done.
One of the most common conditions that results to an abnormal vaginal discharge is bacterial vaginosis. It results from the normal bacterial flora in the vagina growing abundantly and uncontrollably. People used to believe that Gardnerella species caused the condition, but it was later found that there are multiple species that can cause the vaginosis.
The cause of the condition has not yet been isolated but there are a number of bacteria that can cause the foul smelling vaginal discharge from this condition. However, factors that predispose the development of the condition have been noted such as use of antibiotics, douching, smoking and risky sexual behavior.
The problem with bacterial vaginosis is that it does not have other symptoms aside from vaginal discharge which is described as thin or watery, grayish to whitish in color, and may have a foul or fishy odor.
How to Treat
The most common treatment option for this condition is the use of antibiotics such as Metronidazole (Flagyl) or Tinidazole (Tindamax). The former is most commonly used since it is effective in minimizing vaginal discharge, and can kill protozoans, plus the drug can be in topical or intravenous forms which are both direct measures to kill the microorganism. But the presence of side effects such as vomiting, nausea, change in urine color and lack of appetite; and alcohol intake restrictions make it difficult for the patients to take the drug compliantly.
A relatively new antibiotic, Tindamax, is becoming a popular choice to remedy the bacterial vaginosis because it poses fewer side effects that Metronidazole.
Usually, patients suffering from this ailment are able to recover in a matter of 12 weeks, but if the presence of the vaginal discharge is recurrent or there is no improvement noticed. A consult from the health care provider is highly advised because a stronger antibiotic may be prescribed or further evaluation may be needed.
Aside from the use of drugs, other treatment options for vaginal discharge due to the bacterial vaginosis include strict personal hygiene, intake of probiotics and vitamins to improve resistance, and practicing safe sex measures may be done.
Vaginal discharge must still be observed even if it is normally seen in a woman, in order to identify if the discharge is abnormal already. Bacterial vaginosis is a common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge but one must be familiar with the characteristics of the discharge since it does not manifest any other symptom. Prompt intervention is advised as soon as abnormality is noted whether it is due to vaginosis or not.