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Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal discharge or secretions is a natural process that allows the vagina a continuous natural cleaning process. Old cells are exfoliated or sluffed off and new cells grow daily. Secretions are a natural lubricant to allow sex to be pleasurable and to allow sperm to swim to the reproductive tract. The ability of the vagina to keep a certain pH of < 4.7 allows the many bacteria in the vagina to stay at a certain level. When this pH is altered, the various bacteria or yeast can grow abnormally.

Yeasts of various types grow in the vagina normally. When women experience extreme stress or illness or antibiotic use, the natural bacteria are killed and yeast are allowed to grow. A typical yeast is white or yellow with a cottage cheese like discharge. Women complain of a burning itching sensation. If not treated this yeast can grow rapidly and cover the entire vaginal and rectal area. Although Monistat is a good treatment for yeast, confirming infection with your physician is important because often vaginal irritation can be a more serious condition.

Gardnerella vaginalis is a facultative aerobic bacteria that grows in the vagina when the pH changes. This infection is known as BV or bacterial vaginosis and causes a fishy or pungent vaginal odor. This odor is worse after intercourse or urination. There is an antibiotic treatment for this infection once diagnosis is made.

Trichomoniasis vaginalis is a sexually transmitted that looks like a tadpole under the microscope. This organism also causes a fishy odor and grey vaginal discharge. Because many organisms cause similar symptoms, it is important to see your physician when you are concerned about vaginal discharge. In my office it usually takes a few minutes to obtain the proper diagnosis with a painless vaginal exam.

I encourage women who are concerned or have questions to call my office.