“I went to the market and was pressed so I used the toilet and since then, I have been experiencing some itching and discharge from my private part,” was the type of stories clinicians and “healthcare providers” often heard from women! If you have access to medical complaints, you would be amazed at what people said! This write up will dwell more on vaginal discharge than itching.
Based on ignorance and false perception, vaginal discharge has been demonized and associated with dirtiness not promiscuity because “everyone” is angel with highest degree of fidelity. With this type of scenario where denial and self-exoneration is common, effective disease management would be highly elusive.
But what is vaginal discharge, what is the cause, and how is it contacted or contracted?
Vaginal discharge is often a normal and regular occurrence! However, there are certain types of discharge that are abnormal and can indicate an infection. An abnormal discharge may be yellow or green, chunky in consistency, or have a foul odour – and it is often caused by infection (fungal, bacterial, viral, protozoal) or even induced by other things including some types of medicines.
The normal vaginal discharge is beneficial and desirable. It helps to keep the vagina clean and prevents infection. And most times, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. The amount as well as the odour and hue (the colour can range from clear to a milky white-ish) can vary depending on the time of one’s menstrual cycle and some other physiological changes. There will be more discharge if one is ovulating, breastfeeding or sexually aroused. The smell may equally be different if one is pregnant and where there is problem with personal hygiene.
Normal vaginal discharge, which is common in women of childbearing age, contains mucus that is normally produced by glands in the cervix and the walls of the vagina. It can be thick, pasty, or thin — and can have odour or no odour, and when exposed to air, the discharge can change colour. It should be noted that any change in the vagina’s flora can affect the smell, colour or discharge texture.
From the above, normal vaginal discharge serves very important physiological functions but the problem here is that due to lack of knowledge most people with normal vaginal discharge who end up searching for cure often become victims of medical fraud in the hands of charlatans and quacks.
Having established that a normal vaginal is always moist, vaginal discharge becomes worrisome and a subject of medical attention when and where it is abnormal, indicating infection and being accompanied by other signs and symptoms such as itching, burning sensation, discomfort or spotting.
Abnormal discharge may be yellow or green, chunky in consistency, or have a foul odor – and needs right medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. And for effective management, where infection is the cause, the partner(s) of sexually active woman should also be treated to avoid re-infection and cross infection.
As a preventive measure, good personal hygiene, daily bathing, daily changing of underwear, eating of balanced diet as well as removal of foreign bodies from the vagina will be helpful.