Vulval Disease Frequently Asked Questions

For many women, discussing vulval and vaginal conditions can be an uncomfortable topic, often leading to hesitation in seeking professional guidance. To provide clarity and reassurance, here are answers to frequently asked questions regarding vaginal discharge and vulvodynia-vaginal irritation, eliminating any embarrassment you may feel.
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What can it mean if you have creamy, white discharge?
It's crucial to emphasize that in the majority of cases, vaginal discharge is entirely normal, often referred to as 'physiological.' The vagina and cervix are equipped with tiny glands that produce mucus. The quantity of this discharge can fluctuate depending on your menstrual cycle, contraceptive methods, and age. Some women experience daily discharge, while others encounter it at specific life stages. It's common to have concerns about vaginal discharge, but remember that it's a normal bodily function. However, if you notice a thick, white, 'cottage cheese-like' discharge accompanied by itching around the vagina and vulva, it could be due to thrush, a yeast infection typically caused by Candida Albicans. If you experience recurrent infections or find over-the-counter treatments ineffective, consult your doctor for appropriate guidance.
What can it mean if you have watery discharge?
Clear, watery discharge is entirely normal and represents a healthy vaginal secretion. This fluid plays a crucial role in keeping the vagina clean, warding off infections by flushing away harmful bacteria and dead cells. Additionally, it serves as a natural lubricant during sexual activity, preventing discomfort and friction. Discharge volume may vary cyclically throughout your menstrual cycle, often increasing with elevated estrogen levels. After menopause, lower estrogen levels can lead to vaginal atrophy, thinning of the vaginal skin, and subsequent watery discharge.
What can it mean if you have green discharge?
Green vaginal discharge may indicate an infection, often transmitted through sexual contact. Alongside green discharge, watch for other signs like irregular vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, or fever, which can point to infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. It's essential to consult a doctor if you experience green discharge, as swabs from the cervix and vagina can diagnose these conditions, which can then be effectively treated with antibiotics. Condom use is a reliable method for preventing sexually transmitted infections.
What can it mean if you have really smelly discharge?
Is there anything you can do to get rid of the smell? An offensive-smelling vaginal discharge may be attributed to bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common condition. BV is characterized by a 'fishy' odor, often exacerbated during sexual activity. Normally, the vagina maintains an acidic environment to support 'good' bacteria called lactobacilli. When this balance shifts, 'bad' anaerobic bacteria can overgrow, leading to BV. To manage this condition, it's important to avoid constant washing and douching, which can disrupt the vaginal bacterial balance. Refrain from using perfumed soap products and deodorants on the vulva, and limit cleaning to a daily shower with a soap substitute. Semen, being alkaline, can alter vaginal pH, so condom use can prevent this disruption. Additionally, menstrual periods can impact pH; changing sanitary products regularly can help mitigate odor.
If you have a sudden increase in discharge that continues for weeks, what can this mean?
Significant increases in vaginal discharge can occur during various life stages, including puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and changes in contraception methods. While it's highly unlikely that a persistent discharge is indicative of a severe underlying issue, it can rarely result from an inflammatory condition or cancer. If you're concerned about a new and persistent discharge, consult your doctor, who can perform an examination to rule out any vaginal or cervical diseases.
What can it mean if you have a burning sensation when you wee?
A burning sensation during urination is a common symptom experienced by many women at some point. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) often lead to this symptom, along with a frequent urge to urinate. UTIs are typically treated with antibiotics. Non-infectious cystitis, caused by bladder inflammation, can also result in burning during urination. These issues are more common in women than men due to the proximity of the vagina to the anus. To prevent the spread of bacteria, always wipe from front to back after using the toilet.
What can it mean if you have a burning sensation during or after sex?
Vulvodynia is a condition characterized by a burning pain around the vaginal opening during sex or touching, such as inserting a tampon. It's diagnosed after other potential causes of burning pain, like infections, menopausal changes, nerve disorders, inflammation, or pre-cancer, have been ruled out by a doctor. Vulvodynia is a complex pain disorder that can significantly impact one's ability to engage in normal sexual activity and affect relationships. If you suspect you have vulvodynia, seek referral to a specialist in vulval disease.
What can it mean if you vaginal lips are swollen?
The labia minora, or the lips around the vaginal opening, can vary in size and shape between individuals, with no 'normal' standard. Swelling of the labia minora is rarely an isolated issue and is typically accompanied by itching, soreness, skin splitting, or redness. This swelling can indicate an infectious or inflammatory process on the vulva. To alleviate symptoms, choose cotton or silk underwear, avoid pantiliners when possible, refrain from using perfumed or soapy products on the vulva, and wear loose-fitting clothing. For persistent symptoms beyond these measures, consult your doctor for further guidance.

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