Every woman has some vaginal discharge, and it plays a vital role in vaginal health because it keeps the vagina clean and lubricated. But how can you distinguish between normal and chronic vaginal discharge?
What is Vaginal Discharge?
Vaginal discharge consists of fluid from glands in the vagina and cervix. It helps keep the vagina clean by removing old cells from the vaginal wall and protects against infection and irritation.
Vaginal Discharge – What’s Normal?
Normal vaginal discharge usually has a watery consistency and ranges in color from clear to milky white. Vaginal discharge typically has a very subtle odor but is not unpleasant.
Some women have vaginal discharge every day, while others have it now and then. The amount of discharge produced each day varies and may change during the menstrual cycle or menopause.
The type and amount of discharge differ for every woman so they should take note of the characteristics of their discharge and be able to easily spot any changes.
How Long Until It Is Considered Chronic Vaginal Discharge
Vaginal discharge is classified as chronic if the volume or frequency of the discharge changes or if there is a variation in the color, consistency, or odor.
Chronic vaginal discharge may have some or all of the following characteristics:
- Abnormal odor
- Yellowish-green or yellowish-white color
- Sticky or creamy consistency
It may also be accompanied by symptoms such as itching, soreness, irritation, and burning.
What Causes Chronic Vaginal Discharge?
A chronic vaginal discharge could be the sign of a serious health issue, but if this has been ruled out, the condition may be due to an altered vaginal microflora pattern.
An altered vaginal microflora pattern is a deviation from the known patterns of flora. The normal vaginal microflora consists of more than 30 strains of bacteria, but the ‘good’ bacteria are typically more numerous than the ‘bad’ bacteria, and help protect the vagina from infection.
However, if there is any disruption in the balance of microbes, the bad bacteria may increase in number and dominate the vaginal ecosystem. As a result of the shift in the bacterial milieu, the secretions that bathe the tissue around the opening of the vagina can cause symptoms such as chronic discharge, burning, and irritation.
Treating Chronic Discharge
If a chronic discharge is caused by an altered vaginal microflora pattern, the condition can be treated by restoring balance to the vaginal microflora. However, it’s necessary to first identify the type of altered vaginal microflora present.
This in-depth analysis can be done with the assistance of a vaginal fluid analysis (VFA) test. The VFA test was developed by vulvovaginal specialist Dr. R. Stuart Fowler of Fowler GYN International.
The VFA test is an advanced diagnostic technique that evaluates the vaginal secretions to identify the type and quantity of constituents present. If an altered vaginal microflora state exists, a customized treatment protocol is recommended to move the flora towards a normal pattern.
The treatment protocol for chronic vaginal discharge consists of medications and hypocontactant skincare products. The medications provide the nutrients the vaginal microflora needs to return to a balanced state. Once the vaginal microflora is restored to normal, the vaginal secretions will once again be neutral, and the chronic discharge will resolve.
Hypocontactant skin care products are recommended for women with chronic discharge as they often have sensitive genital tissue. This means there is the potential for irritation by chemical irritants present in feminine hygiene products such as soaps and douches.
Shifting to the use of hypocontactant products will minimize exposure to irritants that can cause an allergic reaction and lead to chronic vaginal discharge.
If you’ve been experiencing chronic vaginal discharge that doctors have been unable to resolve, it may be time to schedule a consultation with a vulvovaginal specialist who routinely treats the condition.