Vaginal discharge is not a popular or comfortable topic of conversation. It is no wonder then that most women do not know what to do if they are suddenly faced with abnormal vaginal discharge. This is something women do not even discuss with their mothers or closest friends, so bringing it up with a doctor can be daunting. But if you have abnormal vaginal discharge, it is a sign that all is not right with your body, and you should bring it to your doctor’s attention. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly would be considered an abnormal vaginal discharge, and what the causes could be.
What is Abnormal Vaginal Discharge?
To understand what is meant by abnormal vaginal discharge, you first need to know what is normal vaginal discharge. In short, normal vaginal discharge is clear, white, or slightly yellow, it has no odor or a very mild one, and its consistency or texture can range from pasty to stringy. Read our article on normal vaginal discharge to learn more. Any deviation from normal vaginal discharge – whether it is the smell, texture, or color – would be called abnormal vaginal discharge.
You can easily tell from the type of abnormal vaginal discharge what the reason for it may be. We’ll see next how you can identify the causes of your abnormal vaginal discharge.
Identifying Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
- If the abnormal vaginal discharge is gray or yellowish and is accompanied by a fish-like smell, then it is probably bacterial vaginosis.
- If the abnormal vaginal discharge has the consistency of cottage cheese and is accompanied by mild to severe itching, it is caused by a yeast infection.
- If the abnormal vaginal discharge has a greenish-yellow tinge, is frothy, and has a bad smell, it is caused by a sexually transmitted disease called trichomoniasis.
- A green or yellow discharge can also be a sign of an infection of the cervix.
- A cloudy yellow abnormal vaginal discharge is caused by gonorrhea.
- If the abnormal vaginal discharge is watery and tinged with blood, it can indicate cancer of the uterus, cervix, or vagina.
When To See a Doctor About Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Abnormal vaginal discharge in itself can be quite worrisome. However, you can take comfort in the fact that most cases of abnormal vaginal discharge are caused by some form of infection which is easily curable. If you have never had abnormal vaginal discharge before, then you should definitely go see your doctor if you experience it. But even if you have had abnormal vaginal discharge and recognize it as a symptom of an infection you have had before, you should see a doctor if you experience the following symptoms in addition to abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Abdominal pain
- Pustules on the vagina
- Pain during sex
Reasons for Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
- Vaginal infection or vaginitis like yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia.
- You may get abnormal vaginal discharge when you take antibiotics.
- Even the use of steroids can lead to abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Birth control pills with very high levels of estrogen are known to cause abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Diabetics tend to develop abnormal vaginal discharge if they do not control their blood sugar.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge is one of the symptoms of cervical, vaginal or endometrial cancer.
- Another medical condition that lists abnormal vaginal discharge as one of its symptoms is pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Surgeries can sometimes cause pelvic infection. Abnormal vaginal discharge may be one of the symptoms.
- Hormonal changes in the body caused by thyroid problems, pregnancy and menopause will cause abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Douching, using perfumed soaps, and having bubble baths can all lead to abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Forgetting to remove a tampon or a female condom can cause severely abnormal vaginal discharge.
- If you have an intra-uterine device and it gets infected, it can lead to abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Poor vaginal hygiene can lead to infections which cause abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Improper toilet habits i.e. cleaning from back to front, can transfer feces and germs from the anus to the vagina, thus causing infection and leading to abnormal vaginal discharge.
Diagnosing Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
When you go to your doctor to get checked for abnormal vaginal discharge, you will first be questioned about the vaginal discharge itself – when did you start noticing the abnormal vaginal discharge, have you had abnormal vaginal discharge before, describe the smell, color and consistency of the abnormal vaginal discharge. Then you will be asked about your medical history, sexual habits, and if you are on any medication. These details are necessary to determine the underlying cause of the abnormal vaginal discharge so make sure your information is accurate and you do not leave anything out which may help your doctor diagnose your condition. After getting a fair idea of the circumstances which may be the cause of the abnormal vaginal discharge, the doctor will go on to conduct a physical exam.
- A pelvic exam will be conducted to determine if there is any inflammation, changes to the labia, vulva, vagina or cervix.
- Sample of the vaginal fluid may be taken for testing or observation under a microscope.
Treatment for Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
To bring vaginal discharge back to normal, the underlying cause of the abnormal vaginal discharge must be accurately diagnosed and treated. The treatment will involve tackling the reason behind abnormal vaginal discharge. Therefore, treatment can vary greatly depending on the underlying cause.
Abnormal vaginal discharge is usually treated with a combination of topical creams and ointments, and anti-bacterial pills or creams. In cases where the abnormal vaginal discharge is due to a hormonal imbalance, estrogen pills or creams may be prescribed. If the reason behind the abnormal vaginal discharge is a tumor, then a biopsy will have to be conducted to check whether the lump is malignant or benign.
Preventing Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Abnormal vaginal discharge is best avoided. You may not be able to control the onset of major diseases like cancer, but here are some simple things you can do to keep abnormal vaginal discharge at bay.
- Keep vagina clean with regular washing with water and mild soap only. Do not douche or use perfumed soaps.
- Wear cotton underwear.
- Avoid clothes that are overly tight at the crotch.
- After using the toilet, wipe from front to back.