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The Good & Bad of Vaginal Discharge
Maybe you are embarrassed to talk about vaginal discharge. But there is no reason to be. All women have it and it is normal for the vagina to produce secretions to stay clean, healthy, lubricated, and protected against infection and germs. The discharge maintains your vagina’s natural balance.
A normal discharge is clear or cloudy white and might appear yellowish when dry on clothing. The discharge may slightly differ in consistency, color, and smell. You only have to start worrying when it changes color or develops an odor drastically. It is annoying and sometimes uncomfortable, but there is no getting away from it – vaginal discharge is a necessary evil in every woman’s life.
Vaginal discharge is secreted as a ‘clean up’ mechanism for a woman’s reproductive system, especially in the days immediately after the end of the monthly menstrual cycle. Its function is to rid the uterine and vaginal tract clear of old cells and fluid and it is nature’s way of keeping the uterus, cervix and vagina clean.
The amount of discharge varies from woman to woman, so what is normal for one may be abnormal for another. Besides, the amount and intensity varies on other factors such as stress, an infection, illness, use of antibiotics, ageing and pregnancy.
While some women can experience a discharge daily, not counting the days they have a period, others can have occasional discharge. As long as the discharge is transparent or slightly whitish, without an odor and it is not thick, the discharge is considered normal.
The first sign of some distress in the uterine tract is normally exhibited through vaginal discharge. Whether a localized infection or a larger issue like a fibroid, the vaginal discharge will give the first indication of the condition. You might experience a sudden, heavy discharge. On the other hand, you might experience extreme dryness in the vaginal area with no discharge at all. Either way, it should sound an alarm bell.
Additionally, the discharge may change appearance, which is when you should be concerned. If it changes color, becomes yellow or greenish or clotted white, like curd, and if it develops a strong fishy or unpleasant smell, then it means you have developed an infection. It may be a yeast infection or vaginosis or even a sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea. The good news is that these infections can be treated with oral medication and if doctor’s orders are strictly followed, they can clear up in a few weeks.
If you experience a sudden heavy discharge, try and chart out how long you have been suffering from it. Same goes for sudden dryness and lack of discharge for days, if you have previously had regular discharge. Ideally, you should not wait for longer than a week to see a doctor.
A change of color and smell of the discharge is an indication of an infection. An infection exists if the discharge is yellow, greenish, grey or curdy in appearance, and if it smells bad.
You may get an infection if you have sexual intercourse with a person infected with chlamydiaor gonorrhea.
If you are experiencing pain during intercourse or if the vagina is swollen/dry, you may have an infection in the cervix.
Do not try to treat yourself at home using douches or vaginal washes purchased off the market without a doctor’s advice. There is a high chance of you killing the healthy cells in your system if you use a douche, or certain cleansing solutions in your vaginal area.
Some infections recur, so if you have been treated once, don’t assume you won’t ever need treatment again. Consult your doctor when making lifestyle, food, and medication choices.
Infections are treated with antibiotics. Often just one dose of antibiotics by mouth is enough. Another option is to use antibiotics in vaginal cream or gel form. Cream or gel can be soothing the inflamed, sore vaginal lining. Usually, the conditions that cause vaginal discharge respond to treatment within a few days. Your doctor would be able to determine an effective course of treatment and suggest ways to prevent it from recurring.
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