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 Fever & Infection

May 2011
Vaginal Discharge Summary
Dr.Usha Bohra
 
What is yeast infection?
A healthy vagina may have traces of yeast fungus. However, when the amount increases, it could lead to a yeast infection. This type of infection is generally acquired if you are diabetic, using antibiotics, pregnant, or stay sweaty for long periods. Some women are more vulnerable to such infection for no specific reason.

What is vaginal discharge and is it normal?
The glands inside the vagina and cervix make small amounts of fluid. The fluid flows out of the vagina every day, disposing off/removing old cells that have lined the vagina. This is the body's way of keeping the vagina clean and healthy. The discharge is usually transparent or milky and doesn't smell bad.With each monthly cycle, the colour and thickness of the discharge changes. When you ovulate (when one of your ovaries releases an egg), when you breastfeed or when you're sexually excited, the discharge is thin and transparent.

What changes may be a sign of a problem?
Look out for these changes:
  • Increase in the quantity of discharge
  • The discharge smells bad/stinks
  • Change in its colour
  • Irritation in the vaginal area
  • Itchiness or burning in or around your vagina (vaginitis)
  • Discharge has stains of blood even when you are not having your period
Should you spot any or all of these signs, then it’s time to consult a doctor.

Reasons for these changes
These changes can occur when the normal balance of healthy bacteria in your vagina is upset. Factors that can disturb the balance of a healthy vagina include douching, feminine hygiene sprays, certain soaps, antibiotics, diabetes, pregnancy or infections.

Tips on preventing vaginitis
  • After using the toilet, make sure you wipe from front to back. This will help prevent bacteria move from rectal area into the vagina.
  • It’s always advisable to wear cotton underpants during the day. Cotton helps your genital area breathe. Avoid wearing underpants at night.
  • Do not wear tight pants, swim suits or biking shorts for too long.
  • Check your skin’s sensitivity to detergents and change if you suspect an allergy.
  • Some women are sensitive to latex in condoms, diaphragms and sperm-killing gels that are used for birth control. If you belong to that category, do consult a doctor for alternatives.
  • Avoid use of hygiene sprays, perfumed or coloured toilet paper, deodorant pads and tampons. Bubble bath too may sometimes cause vaginitis.
  • Do not over clean this area as it might kill the healthy bacteria and make you prone to infection.

What is yeast infection?
A healthy vagina may have traces of yeast fungus. However, when the amount increases, it could lead to a yeast infection. This type of infection is generally acquired if you are diabetic, using antibiotics, pregnant, or stay sweaty for long periods. Some women are more vulnerable to such infection for no specific reason.

Signs to look for
  • Thick white discharge which is curd-like
  • Unbearable itching
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Swelling and pain around the vaginal area
Treatment for yeast infection
A medicine is inserted into the vagina to treat the yeast infection. However, it can also be treated with oral medicine. If you are more prone to yeast infection, then it’s best you consult a doctor and seek appropriate treatment.

What is bacterial vaginosis?
Although it is not clear as to why women develop this infection, bacterial vaginosis is usually caused by Gardnerella vaginalis and can be treated with antibiotics.

Signs to look for
  • Vaginal discharge is gray, yellowish or white in colour
  • Itching or burning sensation
  • Swelling or redness of the vagina or vulva
  • Bad odour (strongest after sex or washing the area)
What is trichomoniasis?
This infection is usually caught when you have sex without a condom or with someone who’s infected. Trichomoniasis is caused by an organism called Trichomonasvaginalis. You may be infected, but may not see signs for a long time. It can be treated with oral antibiotics.

Signs to look for
  • Yellowish or greenish discharge
  • Unpleasant odour
  • Most apparent after your menstrual cycle
  • Pain and itching when urinating
What is a normal discharge?
All women spot a little discharge a few months before puberty and at the end after the menopause. The amount of discharge changes with time and between periods. The amount of discharge also varies for each woman. Hence what is normal will change for each woman. However, if you have to frequently use panty shields, or change protection or underwear several times in a day, then it is probably more than normal and time for you to seek doctor’s advice. Sometimes, a doctor may take samples of the discharge to check for infection. The samples will be sent for laboratory examination and further investigation.
 
Dr.Usha Bohra Chief consultant gynecologist, Apollo Hospital, Ahmedabad


    
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