Vaginal discharge, vaginal discharge are terms for everyday occurrences of moisture and discharge in the area of the female sex organs (vagina).
They come from secretions, which can take on the most varied of properties: pure whitish, milky, glassy or glassy-milky, purulent, purulent-slimy, purulent-watery, yellowish, frothy, greenish or reddish. The amount of secretions changes. Sometimes it is only slight, but often women have such a heavy discharge that they are constantly bothered not only by the feeling of dampness, but also by unpleasant side effects such as soreness, burning, ulceration and pain. See deluxesurveillance for Infectious Diseases Guide.
The odor can be bland, slightly sweet or foul-smelling, even stinky.
It is understandable that women turn to the gynecologist when they have such symptoms in order to be relieved of their symptoms. However, help can only be obtained by looking for the cause of these various discharges, when the actual source of the discharge can be determined.
The discharge occurs mainly in the area of the lower genital areas, namely in the cervical canal, in the vagina or vagina and inside the vestibule of the vagina. But the entire section is not always affected, often only individual parts are the actual causes of discharge and affect other areas. The main sources of discharge and their probable causes will be discussed here.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Unusual vaginal discharge and itching associated with a burning sensation in the vaginal area can be signs of infection or inflammation. Burning when going to the toilet or pain during sex also indicate an imbalance in the vaginal flora. Depending on the pathogen, other symptoms appear.
If the vaginal discharge is thin and light gray, bacterial vaginosis is suspected. The vagina feels dry despite the increased discharge. If there is also an unpleasant or foul-smelling intimate odor of fish, it is very likely that the vagina is inflamed by bacteria.
White, crumbly vaginal discharge coupled with severe itching suggests a fungal infection. The discharge usually does not smell in the case of vaginal mycosis (infestation with yeast). In some cases, however, it can take on a slightly sour odor.
If parasites (trichomonas) are the trigger for the inflammation, yellowish discharge occurs. Sometimes the vaginal secretion is greenish to frothy and smells extremely unpleasant. Sometimes there is pain in the lower abdomen that cannot be precisely assigned.
If the vaginal entrance is affected by blisters that are very painful, the cause is probably a herpes virus infection. If a vaginal infection remains untreated, the pathogens can spread to the uterus and ovaries and cause other diseases.
One of the most important sources of discharge substances is the cervical canal. This canal, which is about two to three centimeters long, is lined with a gland-rich skin, whereby the number of glands and their extent vary from person to person. On the other hand, they are all equipped with a mucus-forming top layer. This lining of the cervix constantly produces mucus that is closely related to a number of biological processes.
Under normal conditions, the substance leaking from the cervical canal is not produced in sufficient quantity to cause the woman to feel discharge, or fluor, as it is called in technical terms. However, conditions often develop in the cervix that increase the formation of mucus and thus become sources of discharge. The reasons for this are manifold.
These include scarring on the cervix caused by the birth act when the wounds heal poorly after delivery. Strings of scars form and the originally tubular, smooth neck canal shows clear tears, so that the delicate glandular mucosa is no longer protected.
Similar phenomena occur when the glandular lining of the cervical canal, either congenital or as a result of childbirth, occupies the protruding surface of the cervix. Even then, the sensitive gland cells are exposed and react – irritated by the foreign environment – with increased mucus production. This increased secretion is generally tolerable and remains within certain limits. Only when the exposed, easily injured areas of the mucous membrane also become inflamed does heavy, sometimes purulent discharge become noticeable, which can cause extremely great discomfort.
But even with a completely intact cervical canal, increased mucus secretion can occur. Because apart from chronic irritation of the glands as a result of previous inflammations in the area of the cervix – the glandular tubes are preferred hiding places for all kinds of bacteria – nervous and hormonal causes play a very important role here.
function of the vagina
The glandular mucosa in the cervical canal is influenced by the ovarian hormones and the nervous system. This is why the cervix can be stimulated to secrete more when the ovaries are overactive or underactive or when there is increased nerve excitability, similar to the stomach when there is inflammation of the mucous membrane.
Sensitive, easily excitable women are particularly susceptible. There is no doubt that mere sexual ideas and feelings can increase mucus secretion, which can be caused by erotic desires, reading, dreams and films. To the same extent, the defense against unwanted partners, sexual conflicts outside and within marriage and partnership sometimes play a role that should not be underestimated in the increase in mucus and thus in the development of the feeling of discharge.
It should also be mentioned that, of course, benign or malignant tumors and growths also cause mucous, watery, purulent, but in the case of cancer mostly bloody secretions. For this reason alone, every woman should consult a gynecologist when discharge occurs, because this is the only way to detect a cancerous tumor.
Structure of the vagina
The vagina (vagina) is a muscular tube whose inner skin consists of a thick layer of several layers of flat cells (so-called pavement epithelium). Although there are no secreting glands in the vaginal wall, in the lumen there is a whitish, often more pasty, sometimes whitish-liquid mass that adheres to the vaginal wall without causing the sensation of discharge. This substance, which is mainly made up of sloughed-off vaginal wall cells and rod-shaped bacteria – so-called Döderlein’s vaginal bacteria – is of great biological importance.
It protects the upper parts of the female sexual organs (uterus, fallopian tubes, abdominal cavity) from the ingress of pathogenic germs from the outside. This is done with the help of lactic acid, a relatively strong acid that is formed by the Döderlein bacteria from the sugar present in the desquamated cells.
However, this acid protection can be disrupted or even interrupted for various reasons. For example, a larger amount of alkaline mucus can flow from the cervical canal into the vagina and at the same time weaken the acid that is forming again and again. Foreign germs (pus pathogens) can also get into the vagina (vagina), either because a poorly closing entrance, as can occur after childbirth, offers no resistance, or because the bacteria are infected with, among other things, rinsing fluids or rings to correct uterine prolapse and vaginal incidents. Under such conditions, the contents of the vagina increase and flow out of the vagina more, giving the woman a feeling of discharge.
The more harmless changes in the vagina described so far are opposed to those that are associated with simultaneous vaginal inflammation. The discharge is then usually thin, watery or purulent, sometimes even bloody.
Vaginal inflammation & discharge
This partially unpleasant-smelling discharge causes a feeling of sharpness or burning and soils the external genitals and thus also the underwear. As microscopic examinations have shown, this secretion no longer contains any Döderlein bacteria (lactic acid bacteria), but instead contains masses of pathogenic pus germs and a large number of white blood cells, which shows that the invading foreign germs have gained the upper hand and have caused an inflammation. As a result, the vaginal wall is also very reddened, inflamed and swollen and very sensitive to pain.
The causes of this clinical picture are just as varied and often cannot be identified at all. However, it is clear that in any case, the activity of the ovaries plays a major role in this, as it regulates the functioning of the vaginal wall. Disorders in the ovaries can therefore have a negative effect on the defense mechanism of the vagina. In addition, of course, all kinds of pus germs and gonococci are important for the development of such a disease.
Small flagellates, so-called trichomonads, and thrush – the same pathogen that often causes white plaque in the mouth of small children – are also regarded as pathogens of very stubborn and painful vaginal inflammation. They become particularly noticeable through severe itching and burning. The inflammation can develop to the point of ulcer formation, which of course must complicate the treatment.
Not only the inner, but also the outer genitalia consisting of folds and bulges, large and small labia, can cause discharge. The skin and mucous membrane glands present in the bulges secrete sebum, fat, mucus and sweat and thus protect the tissue from drying out, urine running down, etc. These secretions are usually so small that a feeling of moisture does not arise. However, their multiplication and change also lead to discharge. The sensory nerves of the external sex organs play a major role here, as they react most sensitively to improper wetting.
More inflammation & eczema of the vagina
It is therefore understandable that the delicate and sensitive mucous membrane of the external genitalia is irritated and inflamed by mucous or purulent-watery discharge from the upper parts. This is especially true for purulent vaginal inflammation caused by trichomonads and thrush. Understandably, the external urethral opening is also involved, which usually leads to painful urination. In the case of strong, caustic discharges, inflammation and eczema can even occur on the neighboring skin and thighs, which considerably complicates the clinical picture.
But the external genitals can also become inflammatory in isolation, in women of all ages. The causes here are uncleanliness, a reduction in resistance in the case of severe general diseases and chemical or mechanical stimuli.
Finally, the feeling of moisture on the external female genitals is also caused by abnormally strong secretions from the mucous glands present there. These glands are very heavily influenced by the nervous system, so mood, nervousness, or sexual arousal can all be blamed for a discharge.
A vaginal infection with vaginal discharge can cause various complications. When inflammation spreads to the cervix, it can lead to inflammation of the fallopian tubes and ovaries. This can lead to infertility or an ectopic pregnancy and subsequent complications. During sexual intercourse there is a risk of infecting the partner.
If the vaginal inflammation occurs during pregnancy, it can also promote premature labor or premature rupture of membranes. In the most severe case, vaginitis leads to a miscarriage. Occasionally, the colpitis pathogen spreads to the child and subsequently causes serious health complications. The vaginal discharge can lead to inflammation and occasionally cause a urinary tract infection.
It is also accompanied by a strong feeling of being unwell. When treating vaginitis with vaginal discharge, the risks come from the antibiotics prescribed. These can cause various side effects and allergic reactions. Symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract, headaches and body aches, skin irritations and, rarely, damage to the liver and kidneys are typical. Improperly used home remedies can also cause problems and possibly further irritate the vaginal environment.
When should you go to the doctor?
As a rule, vaginal discharge is natural and therefore does not require medical treatment. It is also normal for vaginal discharge to change in consistency and intensity over the course of the cycle. However, there is usually a need for action if the secretion suddenly changes color or has a noticeable smell. Some bacterial or fungal infections have the potential to heal spontaneously without medical treatment.
If the vaginal secretion turns pink or brown, this can indicate that an embryo has implanted in the uterus, that menstruation is about to start or that ovulation is taking place. For this reason, it is sometimes advisable to wait a few days before those affected consult a doctor. If there is also inflammation or other symptoms such as pain and itching, a specialist should be consulted as soon as possible. Self-treatment is not recommended. In young girls, vaginal discharge begins some time before the first period (menarche).
It is a natural process. To be on the safe side, however, this can be clarified with a gynaecologist. It is not absolutely necessary, but it is often advisable to see a doctor if there is heavy or weak vaginal discharge. Although these symptoms are usually not related to diseases, the gynecologist can prescribe preparations that alleviate them.
Treatment & Therapy
This multitude of causes makes it impossible to assess the discharge from a uniform point of view. This makes it necessary to research the cause or source of the abnormal discharge substance in each individual case, taking into account the overall personality (emotional life, state of the nervous system, general diseases) of a person. In most cases, it is possible to identify the cause of the discharge through precise examinations of the external and internal genitals or organs and with the help of microscopic examinations of the secretions, with which the gynecologist then also holds the key to its elimination.
From what has been said, it goes without saying that there can be no general remedy for vaginal discharge and the treatment measures must also be different depending on the type or cause of the discharge. However, in any case, it is important to identify and eliminate the source of fluoride and restore proper function of the genital organs and normal construction of the vaginal wall. As already mentioned, finding the causes is significantly more difficult due to the large number of causes and the fact that they can lie outside the genitals.
Let’s just think of general diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver , diabetes, Basedow, infectious diseases and pathological nervous conditions, which are also to be regarded as causes of discharge. Of course, all of this also complicates the treatment, which must always be individual and does not allow generalization. Complete success is therefore only guaranteed if the patient follows all medical instructions and does not lose patience during the usually lengthy treatment.
You can do that yourself
Vaginal discharge and vaginal inflammation is a not uncommon problem that can often be easily managed with self-help. Prerequisite is an exact diagnosis by the doctor. Once this has taken place, self-help by the woman can in many cases replace another visit to the doctor if the appearance flares up again. Common to both discharge and inflammation is a bacterial imbalance. The environment that is natural in the vagina can often be easily restored with lactic acid bacteria. There are suppositories or tablets that are inserted into the vagina. Alternatively, a tampon coated with natural yoghurt is a good help. At the same time, it cools the tissue, which is often reddened by the infection. In this way, itching can often be relieved in a completely natural way.
Hygiene is important when it comes to vaginal discharge. But many women overdo it in this context and bring the environment of the vagina even more out of balance with harsh cleaning agents. Mild cleaning, preferably with lukewarm water, is completely sufficient here. In addition, when going to the toilet, care should be taken to ensure that the paper is always wiped from the vagina towards the anus and not vice versa. Laundry is best washed at high temperatures and of course changed daily.