Sexual health is an extremely important topic for all individuals. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, many young people and adults still don’t have a full understanding of sexual wellness. As such, they may be confused or alarmed by certain conditions.
Today, we’ll examine one such condition –– vaginal discharge –– and explain what causes it and if it’s normal, dangerous, or somewhere in between.
Healthy Vaginal Discharge
In many instances, vaginal discharge is completely normal and healthy (source). Healthy discharge acts to clear the vagina of dead cells and bacteria, and this occurs on a regular basis. Certain factors, like pregnancy, can cause women to discharge more than usual, but again, some vaginal discharge is to be expected.
Unusual Vaginal Discharge
No two women are the same, and so it can be difficult to identify what constitutes “unusual” vaginal discharge. Discharge that differs in smell, color, consistency, or amount from normal discharge could be the result of a number of potential conditions. These conditions range in severity from unremarkable to life-threatening.
What Causes Unusual Vaginal Discharge?
Unusual vaginal discharge may be caused by any of the following:
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
- Yeast infection
- STDs like trichomoniasis, chlamydia, or gonorrhea
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- HPV or cervical cancer
Again, an unusual discharge may have a strange smell, color, or consistency. In addition, some women may experience blood within their discharge (source). This may also indicate a health issue.
Protecting Your Well-Being
Lots of times, vaginal discharge doesn’t present a health risk to women. However, the unusual discharge could be a sign of a bigger problem. In order to protect their well-being, women who experience symptoms like vaginal discharge should find STD clinics near them and speak with a medical professional as soon as possible. Untreated STDs, for instance, can lead to a number of health problems such as infertility, nerve damage, or even death.
Also, individuals who test positive for STDs should speak to their previous sexual partners and inform them. Many people who have an STD are unaware of the fact.
Determining whether or not vaginal discharge presents a health threat can be difficult. Though, women who have experienced unusual vaginal discharge multiple times, or have experienced vaginal discharge in conjunction with other unusual symptoms (like vaginal itching, welts, or abdominal cramps) should speak to their doctor immediately.
Trying to self-diagnose or self-medicate could exacerbate the problem.
Bottom line: when in doubt, call your M.D.