Most women have a normal vaginal discharge that may vary in volume and colour throughout the month.
Vaginal discharge is secretions from the vagina, which is the body's way of keeping the vagina healthy and clean. A normal discharge is clear or cloudy white.
However, if this discharge becomes foul smelling or is accompanied by symptoms like itching or burning, it might be indicative of an infection.
The most common infections causing a discharge are thrush, also known as candidiasis; and bacterial vaginosis.
What is Trush?
Thrush is a common infection caused by strains of Candida fungi or yeast, especially Candida albicans.
Candida infection may be present in different parts of the body such as the mouth, vagina and skin.
Candida overgrowth has a number of causes, including antibiotics, a compromised immune system, hormonal imbalance, stress and an inadequate diet.
Thrush can often be diagnosed by a simple physical examination and viewing a scraping sample through a microscope at the doctor's office.
In otherwise healthy individuals, infections can usually be eliminated with a short course of antifungal medication. Thrush can be treated with topical antifungal medications administered directly into the vagina as creams, ointments or suppositories.
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What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) occurs when bacteria in the vagina become imbalanced and leads to an infection.
Small organisms called Lactobacilli help to keep the pH at the right level, but using antibiotics, soaps and even having sex can leave the vagina more alkaline, thereby encouraging bacterial growth.
Usually bacterial vaginosis produces a thin, white discharge and has an unpleasant musty or fishy smell.
BV can be treated with over the counter topical (vaginal) or oral antibiotics such as metronidazoleor clindamycin.
Correct diagnoses and treatment may decrease risk of future potential health problems such as bladder infection and upper genital tract infection.
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Did you know that soap or fragranced products may cause bacterial vaginosis?
What could be the cause of a bad smelling vagina?
Understanding bacterial vaginosis