Do not get grossed out by the sight of the phrase; vaginal discharge. It is a very normal phenomenon, until it is not. The vagina is an organ which requires constant care and attention. It undergoes various changes due to different reasons such as menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause among others. 

Vaginal discharge is a normal natural occurrence, until it is not. 

Often, what is referred to as the vagina is actually called a vulva. The vulva is the outer part of the female genitals which includes the opening of the vagina (sometimes called the vestibule). The vulva also includes the labia majora (outer lips), the labia minora (inner lips), and the clitoris. On the other hand, the vagina is a canal which receives the penis during sexual intercourse. The vagina serves as a conduit for menstrual flow from the uterus and a birth canal during childbirth. 

Vaginal discharge

As a result of the various changes the vagina goes through, it discharges different sorts of fluids. Usually, reddish/brownish fluids from the vagina indicate menstrual flow. However, there are other colours and foul smelling discharges which are associated with infections. Some are yellowish, whitish (thick and watery) while others are greyish and cheesy. 

What causes these vaginal discharge and how can they be treated? 

Bacterial vaginosis (thin, white, gray discharge) 

Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition characterized by the presence of foul smelling vaginal discharge with no obvious inflammation. 

The common bacteria species involved are Gardnerella vaginalis, Mycoplasma hominis, Bacteroides spp and Mobiluncus spp. 

Vaginal discharge

Dr Azizat, a medical officer, mentions the factors that causes it, and they include; recent antibiotic use, decreased estrogen production, wearing an intrauterine device (IUD), and douching. Other causative factors are sexual activity that could lead to transmission. An example is having a new sexual partner or a recent increase in the number of sexual partners.

“Use Flagyl for treatment but see your doctor for a test,” she says. 

Vulvovaginal Candidiasis (cordlike, cheesy, milky discharge) 

This is a fungal infection which causes itching. “The first thing you should think of when you see someone with discharge who is also itchy, is Vulvo vaginal candidiasis,” she says. 

Vaginal discharge

She adds that the risk factors of this infection are; Pregnancy, combined oral contraceptive pills, antibiotics, Diabetes Mellitu, hormone replacement therapy and HIV infection. 

Treatment for Vulvovaginal Candidiasis:- Use antifungal agents either as a cream or pessary. 

Trichomonas Vaginalis (Yellowish – Green Discharge) 

This is a parasitic infection which is usually sexually transmitted. It causes inflammation in the vulva and the vagina. Its symptoms are soreness, painful urination, itching, and foul smelling discharges. It is important to note that not everyone will have these exact symptoms. 

vagina health

Dr. Azizat mentions Flagyl as treatment but advises a visit to the hospital for proper testing. 

How can these infections be prevented? 

Although the aforementioned infections are only a few, there are some measures that can be taken to prevent them and others that weren’t mentioned. 

Dr Azizat says, “Generally, we advise women to always avoid using soap around the vagina.” She adds, “Wear cotton panties, avoid using perfumes and vagina hygiene products.” 

Others include :

  • Eating properly 
  • Drinking lots of water 
  • ABC (Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condoms) 

This article was written by Sola Tales.

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