Vaginal Discharge: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Vaginal Discharge: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
Photo source: Getty images

The discharge from the vagina is whitish in colour even under normal circumstances. In addition, hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy, contribute to whitish discharge. However, if the white discharge is accompanied by other discomforts, it is necessary to think of a disease. Such as an infection.

White discharge from the vagina may or may not be a symptom of a disease or a female problem. Unless the white discharge is accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain, itching, burning, odor, or blood, it is not a sign of disease.

FAQs (answers are given in the article):
What does thick white to yellow discharge mean?
Can it be accompanied by pain in the lower abdomen or itching in the vaginal area? 
Whhat are those clumps? 
WHat about premenstrual discharge and discharge during pregnancy?

Vaginal discharge without signs of disease

Sometimes, increased vaginal discharge is quite natural, for example, in adolescent girls during the menstrual cycle.

Some change in vaginal discharge is normal even in adulthood.

The vagina is part, together with the external genitalia, the uterus and other internal organs, of the female reproductive system. The mucous membrane of the vagina harbours several different types of bacteria or yeasts. These normally live in symbiosis with each other and create the natural acidic pH and environment of the vagina.

Woman, pregnancy, hands on belly, sun
Hormonal changes affect the body during pregnancy. Photo source: Getty images

Normally, the discharge that the vagina produces, is not in itself a symptom of a problem. This discharge is produced by the glands in the vagina and the cervix.

The role of normal and usual vaginal discharge is to clean the vagina, maintain moisture and also antibacterial action. The discharge is therefore protective.

Normal discharge can be mucus-like, clear, slightly milky, and thicker.

A change in vaginal discharge can be caused by menstruation, when the vaginal discharge changes according to the phases of menstruation.

Normal vaginal discharge can also be thicker, whitish, clumpy, acidic, with a slightly sour smell, even odorless.

Its change is also triggered by hormonal changes, i.e. ovulation, and pregnancy. Even, various medications, emotional stress, and naturally, sexual arousal. In the period of menstruation, its color changes due to the presence of blood. A discoloration other than white, and a fluctuation in other characteristics, may indicate a problem.

Changes in vaginal discharge as a result of a disease

Abnormal vaginal discharge is characterized, for example, by a change in color to yellow or green, but also by a change in quantity, consistency or odor. If itching, burning, soreness, or even traces of blood are present, it is already necessary to visit a specialist doctor, i.e. a gynaecological outpatient clinic.

Similarly, if there is a thick whitish discharge from the vagina or a rash, especially around the genitals, or abdominal or lower abdominal pain, it is advisable not to underestimate the condition and go for a checkup.

Altered vaginal discharge can signal, for example, bacterial, yeast infections, various viral diseases, or trichomoniasis, a parasitic disease and other more serious diseases.

Cervical cancer is a more serious condition. This cancer is quite a serious disease where one of the symptoms is an unnatural, too-white vaginal discharge and bleeding even outside the menstrual cycle.

Cervical cancer needs to be caught as early as possible. Regular preventive check-ups and appropriate prevention are important. For information on cervical cancer prevention, see Preventing cervical cancer

Vaginal mycosis

Yeast infection, i.e. vaginal mycosis, is very common. Mycoses are a relatively common problem and gynecological disease. This disease is caused by the yeast Candida albicans.

The disease is very unpleasant. There is:

  • severe itching, burning
  • whitish discharge from the vagina
  • smelly discharge

Mycosis can have many causes, especially in external factors. The reason for this can be lack of hygiene, multiple sexual partnersTreatment is quite simple and successful. It usually lasts about a week.

A woman is holding a condom, a man is lying in bed in the background, changing sexual partners as a risk of sexually transmitted diseases and thus mycosis
Multiple sexual partners is a risk factor for mycosis. Photo source: Getty images

Risk factors that influence the development of candidiasis:

  • stress and psychological tension, depression
  • hormonal changes, even during pregnancy or menopause
  • when taking medicines, especially contraceptives or antibiotics
  • frequent change of sexual partners
  • immunity disorder
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing's syndrome
  • Obesity
  • endocrinological diseases such as thyroid disease
  • tumours in the vagina, cervix or uterus
  • insufficient hygiene
  • a foreign body in the vagina, such as a tampon left in the vagina for a long time
  • pH changes after rinses, spermicides, chlorinated water
  • inappropriate clothing, tight underwear, tight trousers
  • allergic reaction, namely contact reaction due to inappropriate laundry or hygiene products
  • swimming in natural water reservoirs

Mycosis can have different names, and yet it is the same disease:

  • yeast infection
  • vaginal candidiasis
  • vaginal mycosis
  • mycotic vulvovaginitis
  • mycotic vaginal infection

Other causes of whitish vaginal fluorine

Woman in black lace lingerie, lace sleeves, hands on belly
Chlamydia infection is a sexually transmitted disease. Photo source: Getty images

In addition to candidiasis, other diseases or problems can also manifest themselves with this symptom. An example is the disease caused by Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia are bacteria, they cause chlamydial cervicitis, that is, inflammation.

Typically, there is a yellowishwhitish discharge. There is also itching of the vagina, pain during sexual intercourse, pain in the lower abdomen. Urination may become painful, i.e. dysuria.

The most common mode of transmission is sexual contact.

Changes in vaginal discharge are also caused by overgrowth of lactobacilli. Such as in lactobacillosis. Lactobacillus vaginosis, as it is otherwise referred to, is manifested by a whitish lumpy and thick discharge. The discharge may have a sour smell.

Similarly, even in cytolytic vaginosis, a whitish discharge is present. It can be similar to candidiasis, the difference bening that the discharge does not contain yeast, but lactobacilli.

Vaginal Discharge │ What is Normal, What is Abnormal

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Interesting resources

  • Beckmann, R.B. (2014). Obstetrics and Gynecology (7th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 260. ISBN 9781451144314.
  • Hacker, Neville F. (2016). Hacker & Moore's Essentials of Obstetrics and Gynecology (6th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier. p. 276. ISBN 9781455775583.
  • Lentz, Gretchen M. (2012). Comprehensive Gynecology (6th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier. pp. 532–533. ISBN 9780323069861.
  • LeBlond, Richard F. (2015). "Chapter 11". DeGowin's Diagnostic Examination (10th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 9780071814478.
  • Rice, Alexandra (2016). "Vaginal Discharge". Obstetrics, Gynaecology & Reproductive Medicine26 (11): 317–323. 
  • Wathne, Bjarne; Holst, Elisabeth; Hovelius, Birgitta; Mårdh, Per-Anders (1994-01-01). "Vaginal discharge - comparison of clinical, laboratory and microbiological findings". Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica73 (10): 802–808. 
  • Hoffman, Barbara; Schorge, John; Schaffer, Joseph; Halvorson, Lisa; Bradshaw, Karen; Cunningham, F. (2012-04-12). Williams Gynecology, Second Edition. McGraw Hill Professional. ISBN 9780071716727.
  • Adams, Hillard, Paula. Practical pediatric and adolescent gynecology. OCLC 841907353.
  • "Age 25 - Entire Cycle | Beautiful Cervix Project". 2008-12-06. Retrieved 2016-12-16.
  • Reed, Beverly G.; Carr, Bruce R. (2000-01-01). "The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation". In De Groot, Leslie J.; Chrousos, George; Dungan, Kathleen; Feingold, Kenneth R.; Grossman, Ashley; Hershman, Jerome M.; Koch, Christian; Korbonits, Márta; McLachlan, Robert (eds.). Endotext. South Dartmouth (MA):, Inc. PMID 25905282.
  • Leonard., Lowdermilk, Deitra; E., Perry, Shannon (2006-01-01). Maternity nursing. Mosby Elsevier. OCLC 62759362.
  • "Postpartum care: After a vaginal delivery". Mayo Clinic
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