Women’s health / 27 Nov, 2019

Vaginal care

Dr Lau Pik Onn

What is vaginal discharge?

Discharge or mucus secretion is nature’s way of keeping the vagina clean.

Secretion from the vagina is normal for women of reproductive age and should be clear, light and odour free.

When is vaginal discharge not normal?

It is not normal if the discharge is yellow or dark in colour, has an offensive or fishy odour or causes itching.

What are the most common types of vaginal infection and their symptoms?

Yeast infection

One of the most common vaginal infections is yeast infection, caused by a fungus referred to as candida. It affects 75% of women at least once. All women have some fungus in the vagina, but a change in the vaginal environment can lead to overgrowth and consequent development of a candida infection.

The symptoms of a yeast infection includes:

  • Itchiness, redness or pain around the vagina and vulva
  • White, cottage cheese-like thick vaginal discharge
  • Soreness or burning sensation in the vagina
  • Pain during sexual intercourse or urination

Yeast infection may clear up on its own, but if the symptoms persist you will have to see your doctor. Treatment includes oral or topical antifungal medications and/or antifungal pessaries.

Other types of vaginal infection

Another common infection is bacterial vaginosis. The cause is unknown but is thought to be due to an imbalance in ‘good’ and ‘harmful’ bacteria. The discharge has a fishy smell, especially after sex.  Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotics.

Trichomoniasis is a parasite that is sexually transmitted and can cause clear, yellowish or greenish vaginal discharge with an unusual smell, along with itching, burning, redness or soreness in the genital area. Sometimes, these infections have no symptoms. Trichomoniasis can be treated with a short course of antibiotics.

How to prevent yeast infection?

There are many things you can do to prevent infection in the vaginal area.

Washing with warm water

The vagina has a pH level that needs to be maintained in order to prevent the growth of unhealthy bacteria and facilitate the growth of good bacteria. Using harsh cleansers can upset the balance. The vulva, the skin outside the vagina, may be cleansed with gentle soap as long as it does not irritate the skin.

Avoid perfumed deodorant sprays, scented tampons and vaginal douche

These may affect the delicate balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina, leading to yeast infections.

Keep yourself dry and clean

Wipe yourself dry after bathing. Change out of your sweaty or wet clothes as soon as you can, as yeast loves to grow in damp places.

Wear cotton underwear

Cotton absorbs moisture and sweat better, thus reducing yeast infections as candida grows best in a damp environment.

Avoid tight fitting jeans

Stay cool and dry by wearing loose fitting pants and jeans.

Practice good personal hygiene

After visiting the bathroom, wipe from the front to the back to prevent bacteria from the anus travelling to the vagina.

Eat yoghurt

If you have been on antibiotics, replenish the good bacteria by consuming yoghurt with a common probiotic known as lactobacillus acidophilus.

Reduce stress

Chronic stress lowers your body’s immune system, making you prone to vaginal yeast infections.

Change tampons and sanitary napkins frequently

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