What Causes Abnormal Vaginal Discharge ?

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Vaginal infections are usually prevented by the protective bacteria (lactobacilli) that normally live in the vagina. These bacteria keep the acidity of the vagina in the normal range. When acidity in the vagina decreases, the number of protective bacteria decreases, and the number of harmful bacteria increases.
The following make the growth of harmful bacteria more likely (and thus increase the risk of vaginal infections):

Below are some of the most common infections which may cause abnormal vaginal discharge:

Bacterial vaginosis (BV):
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection of the vagina. It results from a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria.BV usually doesn’t cause any other health problems. But it can lead to issues, especially when you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant. This infection can produce a “fishy” smell and an increased discharge that may be grayish. It’s not considered a sexually transmitted infection, but it is most common in sexually active women.

“Bacterial Vaginosis is an extremely common condition that is due to a change in the normal microbiome of the vagina and results as an overgrowth of “bad” or harmful bacteria.”

Bacterial vaginosis can be a recurrent problem for some women, especially occurring after intercourse or periods. Fortunately, there are very effective treatments for BV such as vaginal pH regulators.

Yeast Infection:
Three out of four adult women will get at least one yeast infection during their lifetime. This occurs when too much yeast grows in the vagina.
A yeast infection typically happens when the balance in the vagina changes. This can be caused by pregnancy, diabetes, use of some medicines, lubricants, or spermicides, or a weakened immune system. Occasionally, the infection can be passed from person to person during sex.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs):
Sexually transmitted infections, such as trichomoniasis, chlamydia or gonorrhea, may be mistaken for a yeast infection. Practice safe sex and see your physician if you think you might have been exposed. These infections are easily treated with antibiotics but leaving them untreated may lead to more serious conditions.

“If you are sexually active and/or have multiple partners, you should get tested for STIs at least once a year or when you feel you have been exposed.”

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease:
Pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, is an infection of the organs of a women’s reproductive system. They include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix. It’s usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), like chlamydia or gonorrhea, and is treated with antibiotics.

You might not notice any symptoms of PID early on. But as the infection gets worse, you can have:

  • Pain in your lower belly and pelvis
  • Heavy discharge from your vagina with an unpleasant odor
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pain during sex
  • Fever and chills
  • Pain when you urinate or a hard time going

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the above symptoms.

Abnormal discharge may also cause by irritation of the delicate vaginal tissue. Below are some common sources of irritation:

Douching is cleaning the inside of the vagina with water or other products. Douching is not necessary for a woman and may actually cause infection. It can interfere with the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina and is not recommended by doctors. Douching has been linked to infections, STDs, and even fertility problems.

After menopause, many women have an abnormal discharge. It occurs because the decrease in estrogen levels causes the vagina to thin and become drier. Moderate to severe thinning and drying is called atrophic vaginitis. A thin, dry vagina is more likely to become irritated and inflamed, resulting in a discharge.

Foreign objects:
A foreign object, such as a piece of toilet paper, sexual toy, or forgotten tampon in the vagina can irritate the delicate lining of the vagina and cause abnormal vaginal discharge. An infection may also occur when hygiene is poor. For example, young girls, especially those 2 to 6 years old, may transfer bacteria from the digestive tract to the genital area when they wipe from back to front or do not wash their hands after bowel movements. In older women, urine or stool may irritate the area around the genitals and anus, resulting in a vaginal discharge. Such irritation may occur when women are incontinent (involuntarily pass stool or urine) or bedbound. If a foreign object is the cause, the discharge may contain small amounts of blood.

Feminine Hygiene Products:
Various products that come in contact with the genital area can irritate it, sometimes causing a discharge. Such products include hygiene sprays, perfumes, menstrual pads, laundry soaps, bleaches, fabric softeners, and sometimes spermicides, vaginal creams or lubricants, vaginal contraceptive rings, diaphragms, and, for women who are allergic to latex, latex condoms.

Other causes of abnormal vaginal discharge included the following:

Use of antibiotics:
Antibiotics kill bacteria, which can upset the delicate balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina

Menstrual Cycle:
Menstrual blood or semen in the vagina can reduce the acidity of the vagina and upset the delicate balance of yeast and bacterial in the vagina.

Pregnant women will secrete sticky, white, or pale-yellow mucus early on in the first trimester and throughout their pregnancy. Increased hormones and vaginal blood flow cause the discharge.

Diabetes mellitus:
Vaginal thrush (vulvovaginal candidiasis) can be a symptom of diabetes as high blood sugar levels can cause glucose to be excreted via the urine. Glucose in the urine can create a fertile breeding ground for yeast infections.