Is vaginal discharge normal?
Vaginal discharge, or leucorrhea, is the clear or semi-opaque protein-like substance secreted to keep the vagina moist and healthy. It should be odorless. Many women find vaginal discharge annoying, but this is in fact normal.
The amount of vaginal discharge increases during pregnancy, before or after menstrual period or when subject to sexual stimulations.
Watch out for symptoms
The following are symptoms of vaginal infection. Consult the doctor promptly if you develop any of them.
- Increased discharge
- Change of colour (greyish white, yellow or green)
- Blood-stained discharge
- Abnormal odor (fishy or stinky)
- Burning sensation inside the vagina
- Painful and frequent urination
- Lesions, fleshy growth or blisters
Changes in vaginal discharge can also be caused by cervical cancer, cervical polyp or the use of tampons.
Common types of vaginal infection
1. Candidiasis (Moniliasis)
Causative agent: Candida, a type of yeast (fungus).
Characteristics: Candida is found in the natural world, particularly in moist and warm environments such as the oral cavity, digestive tract, skin and vagina.
Causes: Candida is a normal fungus living in vaginal. However, it causes problem if it is overgrowth. The following conditions make the vaginal environment favourable for candida to overgrowth and cause vaginal infection:
- Pregnancy, menstrual period or the use of oral contraceptive pills,
- Frequent use of antibiotics, long-term use of steroids or immunosuppressants,
- Wearing tight-fitting underpants,
- Diabetes, or
- Vaginal lavage.
Candidiasis is usually not sexually transmitted. However, it sometimes causes the glan of the sexual partner to develop a rash or become inflamed. Medical treatment should be sought when this happens.
Thick white bean curd or cheese-like vaginal discharge,
Itchiness and redness around the genital area,
Burning sensation inside the vagina,
Painful intercourse, or
Burning sensation at the urethral opening and difficulty in urinating.
- Use vaginal suppositories or ointments according to doctor’s instruction.
- Using antibiotic only according to doctor’s advice
- Controlling risk factors to prevent relapses:
- Adopt other contraceptive method instead of oral contraceptive pills.
- Control diabetes.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting underpants.
- Avoid vaginal lavage / douching.
Causative agent: Trichomonas, a protozoa.
Characteristics: Trichomonas is a parasite of the urinary-reproductive tract.
Causes: It is mainly acquired through sexual contact.
Female may present with vulval itchiness, smelly and frothy yellowish vaginal discharges. Male usually do not have any symptoms, although occasionally they may have painful urination.
Oral medication is the mainstay treatment.
3. Abnormalities in vaginal discharge can also be caused by Gonorrhoea, Non-Specific Genital Infection, Trichomoniasis, Genital Herpes, Genital Warts, other germs and even non-infected conditions.
Tips to prevent vaginal infection
- Clean the external genital every day.
- Wear cotton underpants and change them daily.
- Take shower instead of bath.
- Avoid using genital cleansers or fragrances.
- Wipe the genital area or anus from front to back.
- Clean the genitals before sexual intercourse and empty the bladder afterwards.
- Use condom.
Seek medical advice
Vaginal infection is not necessarily caused by sexually transmitted diseases. If in doubt,
- Do not take medications without doctor's advice.
- Consult a registered medical practitioner promptly for examinations and treatment.
- Complete the recommended course of treatment.
- Avoid sexual intercourse until recovery.
- Advise the sexual partner to seek treatment if necessary.
People should seek medical advice as early as possible if they suspect to contract with sexually transmitted infections.
The social hygiene clinics of the Department of Health provide examination, treatment and counselling on sexually transmitted infections. Neither advanced booking nor doctor's referral letter is required. Information is kept confidential.
Social Hygiene Service Clinics Information
Clinics provide Social Hygiene Service (Female)
Clinics provide Social Hygiene Service (Male)