BENGALURU: Abnormal vaginal discharge is a common complaint encountered in a gynaecologic practice. You can have normal vaginal discharge during ovulation, premenstrual, during pregnancy or sexual arousal. Healthy discharge keeps the vagina clean, prevents infections and provides lubrication.
Vaginal infections aren’t life threatening but you should see your doctor if you have abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal itching, painful intercourse, redness or rashes, burning sensation while urinating. It is important to treat the infections at the earliest and if left untreated, it can cause serious complications. The infection can be caused by bacterias, fungi (candidiasis), viruses (HPV, HSV) or parasites (trichomoniasis) and usage of irritants like sprays or douches.
Certain conditions make infection more likely, such as increased pH in the vagina causes the protective bacteria to decrease and an increase in infection causing bacteria; poor hygiene; wearing tight, non-absorbent underwear; leaving tampons in for too long.
A simple pelvic examination by your doctor can diagnose most infections. In certain situations the discharge may need to be tested in a laboratory. In some cases, your doctor may not be able to determine the cause of the infection (non-specific vulvovaginitis). This is usually seen in young girls. The following is a simple colour guide to vaginal discharge.
- Red/brown: Indicates old/fresh blood. If you are on birth control pills, see your doctor who may prescribe other birth control pills. If you experience irregular spotting, see your doctor who may need to examine you, do a PAP smear and rule out any infections.
- Cream/ milky white/ clear: Can be normal discharge unless associated with itching or has a foul odour
- Yellow/greenish: Usually a sign of infection. Sometimes it can be reported when people take new vitamins or try certain foods.
- Pink: If it isn’t the beginning of your period, then see your doctor.
- Grey: Could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis and would warrant further treatment.
The treatment of these infections depends on its cause. You may be prescribed antibiotics/anti fungals/antivirals for oral usage and creams and/or suppositories depending on the cause and severity of the infection. Proper diagnosis will ensure that you receive the right treatment. Avoid intercourse while on the treatment to prevent the spread of infection to your partner.
(The writer is senior obstetrician and gynaecologist, Fortis La Femme Hospital)