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Do you suffer from smelly vaginal discharge?

It could be a condition called vaginitis which as many of one-third of all women of reproductive age face during their lifetime.

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At 29 years, Priya (name changed) is a happily married, well-educated woman. She is health conscious and very particular about her personal hygiene. However, these days, she is disturbed about something which is playing spoilsport with her sex life. Despite maintaining meticulous personal hygiene, she has a very foul-smelling discharge from her vagina. She feels awkward to share this with anyone, even a doctor!

But what Priya doesn't know is that she is facing a condition called vaginitis (infection of the vagina) which as many of one-third of all women of reproductive age face during their lifetime. Dr Sachin Nichite, a consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecologist, explains why this could happen.

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How is vaginitis caused?

The vagina has a balanced environment consisting of yeast and bacteria which help maintain its health. If this balance is disturbed due to (a) Frequent use of antiseptics in private parts or vaginal washes available these days (b) Frequent use of antibiotics (c) Frequent douching (profuse cleaning of vagina) (d) Change in hormone levels due to pregnancy, breast feeding or menopause (e) Use of spermicides (chemical contraceptive that kills sperms), it can lead to infections in the vagina leading to a foul-smelling discharge. (Read: Top 15 women's health concerns)

It is important to remember not to neglect the problem, even if it feels awkward. A gynaecologist has to be consulted. When you do visit one, please do have answers to the following questions which are most likely to be asked by the doctor:

  • Since how many days do you have the discharge?
  • Is there any smell to the discharge?
  • What is the colour of the discharge?
  • How is its consistency?
  • Is there any itching in the vagina or neighbouring areas?
  • Is there pain and difficulty while passing urine?
  • Is there pain during intercourse?
  • Do you have fever?
  • Do you have lower abdominal pain?

These questions are important to figure out the cause of the infection. If the discharge is thick, curdy-white in colour, has no foul smell and is associated with itching, it is most likely a fungal infection called candidiasis. If the discharge is thin, greenish in colour and foul-smelling, it is most likely a bacterial infection.

In case you do have fever and lower abdominal pain, it signifies that the infection has now reached the uterus and its surrounding structures. In such a situation, prompt treatment is required.

It is good to be honest with your doctor about your sex life. Please do tell him/her if you have multiple sex partners and if you use any barrier contraceptives like condoms during sex. This will ensure you get the right treatment for your problem.

The other conditions where special investigations are required are pregnancy, after delivery or abortion, in the case of recurrent infections, if there is a failure of treatment or when vaginal discharge is associated with conditions like diabetes.

Treatment for vaginal infections:

First of all, one should stop using antiseptics or vaginal washes, douching and the other causes already mentioned above. (Read: Tips to maintain better vaginal hygiene)

A bacterial infection may be treated with a 5-7 day course of antibiotics like metronidazole or clindamycin. It can be given either orally in tablet form or inserted into the vagina as a gel or pessary. (Please do note that condoms can get damaged and may not be effective if you are using medication in the vagina). (Read: Tips to maintain better sexual hygiene)

In the case of a fungal or candidal infection, anti fungal medication like fluconazole or clotrimazole may be prescribed in the form of tablets, vaginal gels or pessaries. In addition, anti fungal cream should be applied to the outer surface of the vagina to relieve itching.

Priya is now back to her cheerful self after the treatment. She now knows better about this problem and even helps some of her friends when they suffer from the same.

Dr Sachin Nichite, is a consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecologist, female healthcare expert, female health education expert and counselor. He is also an author based in India and Maldives who through a strategic approach aims to provide comprehensive healthcare and wellbeing to his patients with a personal touch. Also through his immense passion for personal improvement aims to help his patients to become happy, stress free, positive thinkers and successful. Dr Sachin also has a blog through which he aims to educate the masses. He can be reached at http://www.sachinnichite.com.

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