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Other Names:
Discharge from the Vagina, Vaginitis
Vaginal Discharge

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Definition

Discharge of a substance from the vagina. It may vary in consistency (thick, pasty, thin), color (clear, cloudy, colored), and smell (normal, odorless, malodorous). Normal vaginal discharge is clear and is a mixture of secretions from the cervical glands which drains it's secretions downward, mixing with bacteria, discarded vaginal cells and Bartholin's gland secretions.

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Causes

  • Atrophic vaginitis due to hormone changes (common in older women)
  • Non-specific vaginitis due to chemicals, allergens
  • Foreign bodies (such as a forgotten tampon)
  • Monilia or candida infection
  • Trichomonas
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Sexual abuse
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Drugs such as some antibiotics and estrogen-containing drugs that change the normal flora (friendly bugs) in the vagina
  • Irradiation of the reproductive tract (cancer radiotherapy)
  • Sexual excitement and stimulation
  • Emotional stress
  • During ovulation
  • Infection of the cervix (cervicitis)
  • Viral vaginitis, such as caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), or herpes simplex virus (HSV)

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Implications

Increase in the amount and thickness of the vaginal discharge is common for women of childbearing age. Changes in the color, odor, consistency and significantly increased or decreased amount is the first indicator of diseases of pelvic organs. When the abnormal vaginal discharge is caused by a disease that is transmitted through sexual intercourse, the sexual partner(s) may require treatment as well. Consult your physician immediately if the vaginal discharge is persistent depite adequate treatment as this may be indicative of chronic inflammation of the pelvic organs. This can eventually lead to scarring (particularly of the follopian tubes) and infertility.

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What You Can Do

  • Confirm the diagnosis before starting any treatment.

  • For yeast infections, medications such as Monistat are available and can be purchased over-the-counter.

  • Oral antibiotics may be prescribed for bacterial vaginal infections.

  • Antibiotic creams may be prescribed to be inserted into the vagina with a disposable applicator.

  • Good hygiene is vital to prevent and cure most of the causes of abnormal vaginal discharge.

  • Do not douche when you have an abnormal vaginal discharge, it may further deplete the nomal vaginal flora and make the condition worse.

  • Make sure that both the sex partners are treated even if one of them is asymptomatic.

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Vaginal Discharge