Delay in seeking treatment may lead to long term sequelae of infertility.
Vaginal discharge is the liquid or mucus coming out of the vagina. The discharge is made up of vaginal and cervical cells and its secretions under the effect of female hormone estrogen. This clearly explains that vaginal discharge in small amounts is normal for a woman also known as physiological discharge. Physiological discharge may increase during certain days of menstrual cycle like at the time of ovulation and before menstruation begins. Following menopause which is the period following cessation of menses for 1 year, the amount of physiological discharge decreases due to decrease in estrogen levels on the body. Physiological discharge is non-foul smelling and not associated with itching.
Vaginal discharge is considered abnormal in following cases:
- Excessive amount of discharge.
- Associated with bad odour.
- Associated with itching in the vulvar region.
- Associated with pain in the lower abdomen.
- Associated with difficulty in passing urine and burning sensation while passing urine.
- Presence of dyspareunia or pain during coitus.
- Presence of green-yellowish discharge or bloody discharge.
There can be many reasons behind abnormal vaginal discharge. These can be:
- Bacterial, yeast or protozoal infections. These can be sexually transmitted infections.
- Forgotten foreign body like tampons or condoms.
- Chemical agents used like fragrance soaps or vaginal pH altering agents to clean vulva.
- Use of certain pads containing synthetic fragrance producing agents.
- Use of tight and synthetic undergarments.
- Cancer of cervix, vagina or vulva in rare cases.
In cases of any of the above-mentioned associations with vaginal discharge, it is always better to visit the gynaecologist. Doctor will elicit the probable reason behind abnormal vaginal discharge by examination. She/he may take a vaginal swab as well to identify the pathogen involved and start treatment accordingly. Treatment should be completed as advised. In many instances, even the sexual partner will be advised treatment.
Delay in seeking treatment may lead to long term sequelae of infertility. Any genital tract infection can affect the fallopian tubes, which can get damaged leading to inability of females to conceive. In cases where the cause of abnormal vaginal discharge is cancer of genital tract, early visits to the doctor can help detect cancer in early stages. Many screening tests are available to detect cervical cancer i.e., cancer of the mouth of the uterus. The tests available are PAPS, LBC (liquid base cytology), HPV-DNA, VIA and VILI. The details of these tests will be discussed in future articles.
Avoiding delay in seeking advice in cases of abnormal body signals is the most important way of preventing serious consequences thereafter.
“Composed by: Dr. Kanika Chopra is associated with Lady Hardinge Medical College.She is keen in learning, writing and has contributed numerous research publications in both National and International journals.”