SEXUAL HEALTH: VAGINA DISCHARGE, VAGINA ODOUR AND WHAT THESE COULD MEAN

in StemSocial23 days ago (edited)
Most women have seen some strange discharge on their underwear. This discharge sometimes comes with a smell. A lot of women get so curious while some of them shy away from it. Well, this article should hopefully clarify some things about vagina discharge and vagina odour. Read on to know more.

Quick facts.

  • About half of the women of reproductive age have experienced vaginal discharge in their lifetime.
  • Not all vaginal discharge are abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • Pregnant women tend to come down with vaginal discharge than the non-pregnant population. I will say reasons why as I write on.
  • Most abnormal vaginal discharge is due to a variety of organisms. However, the most implicated organism is Bacterial vaginosis.
    By Б.Раданова - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Introduction:

Vagina discharge and vagina odour are symptoms with many causes and not diagnoses. Most women have had it before or perhaps know others who have had it.

Epidemiology

The overall prevalence of abnormal vagina discharge according to a study done in Nigeria is about 55%. In the same study, the prevalence of abnormal vaginal discharge was about 73.3%.
Abnormal vaginal discharge is the second most common problem after abnormal uterine bleeding.
Bacterial vaginosis seems to be the most implicated as I earlier stated.

Pathophysiology:

The vaginal environment is a dynamic ecosystem that is under the influence of metabolic and hormonal factors. When this ecosystem is disrupted and overwhelmed with pathogenic organisms, it leads to infections which can manifest as vagina discharge and vagina odour. You must have heard somewhere that the vagina has a lot of bacteria right?

Causes of vagina discharge:

  1. Physiologic vaginal discharge (leucorrhoea): This is a physiologic vaginal discharge. This is the discharge that comes now and then without odour. This is a normal discharge. It is clear, non-offensive and not pruritic(it doesn't itch). It has a normal pH. It increases during the ovulatory, premenstrual period, pregnancy and hormonal contraceptives
  2. Vulvovaginitis from infections caused by organisms like candida species eg Candida albicans (which can cause candidiasis), Gardnerella vaginalis (which can cause bacterial vaginosis), Trichomonas vaginalis (which can cause trichomoniasis).
  3. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  4. Toxic shock syndrome.
  5. Atrophic vaginitis (Vaginal atrophy)
  6. Sexually transmitted infections
  7. Foreign body eg Intrauterine contraceptive device, tampons.
  8. Infestation with pinworms
  9. Gynecological cancers: They include cancers of the ovary, cervix, endometrium, fallopian tube, vagina and vulva.

VAGINA ODOUR AND CAUSES

Vaginal odour is the smell that your vagina and usually your discharge gives off. A healthy vagina smells like a lot of different things and flowers or perfume aren’t included. A certain amount of vaginal odour is normal. It can have a mild or slight odour that’s not unpleasant but if you notice an unusual vaginal odour that is strong and noticeable, it might be related to these causes:

  1. A fishy odour: It could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. Sometimes the smell becomes more obvious after sexual intercourse. This tends to make women embarrassed but it is really simple to treat the condition.

  2. A zoo/rotten/pungent smell: This is most likely due to a foreign body like a forgotten tampon and it does stink. It Usually smells rotten or putrid like a decaying organism.

  3. If it smells like bread/yeast/beer/flour: It’s likely due to a yeast/fungal infection. This is sometimes accompanied by itching. You might not be one to notice it. It might be noticed by your partner. So pay attention.

  4. A mild, musky smell may be partially due to pheromones. This odour usually changes with hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.

  5. Some of the foods we eat have different levels of acidity that can react with the vagina’s microflora. These include strong spices, smoked foods, fish, onion, garlic, broccoli, asparagus, coffee, or alcohol. Every woman’s body is different, so some women may produce an unpleasant vaginal odour when consuming these foods and drinks when other women don’t.

  6. Sweat: Sweat is a common cause of funky odour.

  7. Foul Smell: This could be a sign of PID, a fistula or gynaecological cancer.

  8. A coppery, metallic vaginal odour:The most common cause of this odour is blood. Blood contains iron, which has a metallic smell. Conditions that can cause bloody discharge include menstruation, cancers etc.

  9. Bleach/ammonia scent: Usually, this is caused by urine. Urine contains a byproduct of ammonia called urea. A buildup of urine in your underwear or around your vulva could put off a chemical smell.

Management:

By CDC/ M. Rein -

Management starts from investigating the cause by a physician. Important things to probe include the person's hygiene, sexual history, contraceptive use etc.
Laboratory investigations are usually ordered by the physician to establish a definitive diagnosis. The investigations include Blood tests, wet mount microscopy, blood cultures, HIV test and other STIs, tape test for pinworms.

Treatment:

Treatment is done based on the cause of the discharge or odour.

  • If the discharge is caused by bacteria like Bacterial Vaginosis or Trichomoniasis, antibiotics like metronidazole or clindamycin can be used. If it is caused by fungi, antifungal agents can be administered
  • Foreign bodies as said earlier causes discharge and treatment simply involves removal of the foreign body.
  • Improving personal hygiene can go a long way if the cause is poor hygiene.
  • Pinworms can be treated with mebendazole

Prevention:

It is worthy to say that most conditions that pertain to sexual health are preventable. Preventive measures include;

  • Practicing good hygiene by showering regularly with clean water.
  • Avoid the use of douches.
  • Avoidance of high-risk sexual behaviours like multiple sexual partners, unprotected sex etc

WHEN TO SEE THE DOCTOR:

If you are experiencing prolonged abnormal vaginal discharge or odour which may be accompanied by burning and itching, you should seek medical care. If left untreated, the underlying cause may lead to complications.

So that’s all folks! Hope this article helped in answering your questions? But remember, the best medical advice is from your health care provider. So do not hesitate to see one should you experience abnormal or prolonged symptoms or need more clarification.

References

  • Venugopal S, Gopalan K, Devi A, Kavitha A. Epidemiology and clinico-investigative study of organisms causing vaginal discharge. Indian J Sex Transm Dis AIDS. 2017 Jan-Jun;38(1):69-75. doi: 10.4103/0253-7184.203433. PMID: 28442807; PMCID: PMC5389219.
  • Healthline
  • Medicinenet
  • Clevelandclinic
  • Mayoclinic
All pictures were gotten from

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Great job. Loved reading it. I might write something along this line and reference your work

Thank you for your comments bro