Vaginal Itching and Discharge
It's So Embarrassing
Having the proper medical care provider for your body's specific needs is important, especially when something like vaginal discharge and itching are driving you a little crazy. For some of us, divulging this kind of information to a doctor can be stressful, after all, it isn't the most pleasant of subjects and can be embarrassing to discuss. However, more important is having a qualified medical professional exam and diagnose the problem so it can be dealt with effectively.
Finding the Right Doctor
Enter the gynecologist. Gynecology is the specialized study of the female reproductive system and deals with diagnosis and treatment of diseases in the uterus, ovaries, vagina and fallopian tubes. The study includes all aspects of female reproduction including menstruation, pregnancy, fertility and conception issues and menopause. Along with having a great GP, having a gynecologist with whom you can work is equally important. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, than a gynecologist who is also an obstetrician is the type of doctor best suited to your needs.
Is This Normal?
Among the many different physiological issues a woman will have to deal with during her life, vaginal itching and discharge is perhaps one of the more unpleasant ones. While often there is nothing serious behind it, without proper examination and diagnosis, an itch can become more than a bother it can be a signal of something of grave concern.
Vaginal discharge is normal and, in most cases, quite healthy. It is a signal that your body is working as it should. Most women have vaginal discharge, a milky white discharge that is the result of cervical and vaginal secretions that contain epithelium, old vaginal wall cells. As long as there is no burning or itching or bad odor, this discharge is not symptomatic of disease.
Vaginal discharge does vary from woman to woman though and its nature and consistency can be markedly different even for the same woman through her menstrual cycles. Cells that come from the vaginal lining and include fluid from the vagina and cervix make up the discharge a woman often gets mid-cycle. This discharge is usually white or clear and the consistency changes to signal ovulation, becoming quite thin and like the consistency of an egg white. After the ovulation period had ended, the discharge changes again, becoming thicker. All of this is normal and is the body's way of allowing for pregnancy and then blocking the cervix to prevent an infection from ascending and causing problems for a potential baby. Anovulation, the absence of menses, means there is usually less discharge and the variation in the consistency of the discharge is negligible.
What Causes a Bad Smell?
There are a variety of external aspects that can cause change to the normal vaginal discharge you probably experience during your cycle. As long as the discharge is odorless, colorless, and does not cause itching or burning, it is likely very normal. Remember, we are all different and what is normal for you may not be normal for someone else. If you're concerned about vaginal discharge, see your gynecologist and discuss matters with her or him.
When there is a bad odor to the vaginal discharge, it is often an indication of infection and should be dealt with before it becomes more serious. Some women experience a strong odor after sex. This could well be seminal odor and not vaginal, although that is where the odor is coming from. Your partner may be eating foods that cause odor - pungent foods and even meat can create this kind of effect. If the odor is only after sex, then it's probably him.
However, an odorous vaginal discharge can also be an indication of bacterial vaginitis and should be checked by the doctor. Bacterial vaginitis is a condition where the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted and an overgrowth of particular bacteria replaces the normal bacteria. Odor, pain, itching and burning accompany the discharge. Not much is known about how a woman contracts this condition, but the important factor is that it needs to be checked out and treated. Although there is no direct link to STDs with this infection, it does lower the resistance to certain diseases like HIV and can put a pregnant woman at risk for preterm delivery or complications during pregnancy.
The Itch of Yeast
Perhaps the most common concern for women when it comes to vaginal discharge is yeast infections. Some women deal with them regularly, often as a result of medications or sensitivity to specific contraception. Be sure to check out our articles in this section to learn more about what causes yeast infections and how best to deal with them.
There are a number of reasons women experience vaginal discharges. If you are concerned that the discharge you are experiencing is not normal, or if you are experiencing additional symptoms, see your doctor for treatment.