Vaginal discharge refers to fluid that comes out of the vagina. This fluid can be made up of cells from the vagina or cervix, water and other substances. It is normal for women to have monthly periods resulting in vaginal discharge that is white, clear and usually does not smell bad. However, abnormal vaginal discharge can be a symptom of an infection or other medical condition that may need evaluation and treatment from an OBGYN.
What are common infections that can cause vaginal discharge?
A bacterial infection of the vagina is called “bacterial vaginosis.” This infection can cause a large amount of vaginal discharge and/or vaginal discharge that smells like fish. Other symptoms can include discharge that is watery (instead of normally thick) and off-white or gray in color. Women can also experience a burning sensation in the vagina.
Bacterial vaginosis is easily diagnosed from lab tests done on a sample of your vaginal discharge. It is also usually treated with medication that can be an oral pill or a cream that you will have to apply to the inside of your vagina.
Some women are prone to these infections and might be required to take these medications for three to six months in order to fully recover. Some tips to prevent bacterial vaginosis include: not douching, limiting the number of sex partners and not smoking. It is important to note that bacterial vaginosis is not sexually transmitted from men, but if you do have bacterial vaginosis, you may be more susceptible to other sexually transmitted diseases from your partner.
A yeast infection can also cause discharge but can look different from bacterial vaginosis in that it can be white and clumpy like cottage cheese. However, it can also be thin and watery. The other symptoms of a yeast infection are similar to other infections of the vagina (itching, pain while urinating, vaginal redness), so it may be hard to tell by yourself.
Diagnosis of a yeast infection can be made by taking a sample of your vaginal fluids and identifying it under the microscope. Treatment is through an oral pill or a medication that you put inside your vagina.
What else could be causing my vaginal discharge?
Your vaginal discharge can also be caused by something that was forgotten in your vagina, such as a tampon or condom. If this is the case, your OBGYN physician will do an inspection and evaluation of your vagina after removing the object.
Vaginal discharge may also be due to a reaction to a new soap or other product that has been in the vagina. If your physician suspects this, they will ask if you have been using any new products in the vaginal area. Once you stop using this new product, your symptoms should improve. Other causes of vaginal discharge include changes in the body that occur after menopause.
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