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Abnormal Discharge

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 16: Sexually Transmitted Infections and Other Infections of the Genitals > Abnormal Discharge


It is normal to have a small amount of discharge or wetness that comes from the vagina. This is the way the vagina cleans itself. The amount of discharge changes during the days of your monthly cycle. During your fertile time, your discharge is more wet and slippery, and clear in color. If you are pregnant, you may have more discharge.

A change in the amount, color, or smell of the discharge from your vagina sometimes means you have an infection, but it can be difficult to tell from your discharge what kind of infection you have.

a woman squatting and holding two fingers near her face
A change in the
smell or color of your
discharge can mean
you have an infection.

Contents

Common Causes of Abnormal Discharge

Abnormal discharge can be a sign of a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, which are not sexually transmitted, or a sign of trichomonas, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, all of which are sexually transmitted. For other signs of these infections and how to treat them, continue reading.

IMPORTANT! If you have discharge from the vagina with pain in the lower abdomen, you could have a serious pelvic infection. Get treatment immediately!

Yeast (candida, white discharge, thrush)

Yeast is not sexually transmitted. It does not cause complications, but it can be very uncomfortable. You are most likely to have a yeast infection when you are pregnant, taking antibiotics, or have some other illness like diabetes or HIV infection.

Signs:
  • white, lumpy discharge, like milk curd or yogurt
  • bright red skin outside and inside your vagina that may bleed
  • you feel very itchy inside or outside your vagina
  • a burning feeling when you pass urine
  • a smell like mold or baking bread
Treatment:

Yeast is not dangerous, and it can often be cured using natural remedies. It is best to treat a pregnant woman before the birth, or the baby can get thrush.

One natural treatment is to mix 3 tablespoons of vinegar with 1 liter (quart) of boiled and cooled water. Soak a piece of clean cotton in the mixture and insert it into the vagina every night for 3 nights. Remove the cotton each morning.

Medicines for Yeast Infection
Soak a clean piece of cotton in gentian violet 1%. Insert the cotton into the vagina, every night for 3 nights. Remove the cotton each morning. Or use any of the following medicines.
Medicine How much to take When and how to take
miconazole put one 200 mg insert high in the vagina, each night for 3 nights
or nystatin put one 100,000 Units insert high in the vagina, each night for 14 nights
or clotrimazole put two 100 mg inserts in the vagina, each night for 3 nights
Prevention:

Wearing loose clothing and underclothes made of cotton, rather than polyester or nylon, lets air around the genitals. This helps prevent yeast. Wash or change the underclothes often. Do not put soap in the vagina when bathing. Do not douche.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is not sexually transmitted. If you are pregnant, it can cause your baby to be born too soon.

Signs:
  • more discharge than usual
  • fishy smell from the vagina, especially after sex
  • mild itching


If you are NOT AT RISK for an STI
Medicines for Discharge: to treat Bacterial Vaginosis
See how to decide if you are not at risk for an STI.
Medicine How much to take When and how to take
metronidazole 400 to 500 mg by mouth, 2 times a day for 7 days
or metronidazole
(avoid metronidazole in the
first 3 months of pregnancy)
2 grams (2000 mg) by mouth, in a single dose
or clindamycin 300 mg by mouth, 2 times a day for 7 days
or clindamycin 5 grams of 2% cream
(one full applicator)
high inside the vagina at bedtime for 7 days
Also treat the woman’s partner with 2 grams of metronidazole by mouth, one time only.
IMPORTANT! Do not drink alcohol during the time you are taking metronidazole

Trichomonas

Trichomonas is a very uncomfortable and itchy STI. Men usually do not have any signs, but they can carry it in the penis and pass it to a woman during sex.

Signs:
  • gray or yellow, bubbly discharge
  • bad-smelling discharge
  • red and itchy genital area and vagina
  • pain or burning when you pass urine

Gonorrhea and chlamydia

Gonorrhea and chlamydia are both serious STIs, but they are easy to cure if treated early. If not, they can cause severe infection and infertility in both women and men. In a man, the signs usually begin 2 to 5 days after he had sex with an infected person. But a man can have no signs and still be infected. In a woman, the signs may not begin for weeks or even months. Even if you do not have any signs, you can still pass gonorrhea and chlamydia to another person.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia have the same signs, so get treated for both.

Signs in a woman:
  • yellow or green discharge from the vagina or anus
  • pain or burning when passing urine
  • fever
  • pain in the lower belly
  • pain or bleeding during sex
  • or no signs at all
Signs in a man:
  • discharge from his penis
  • pain or burning when he passes urine
  • pain or swelling of the testicles
  • or no signs at all


If you think you are AT RISK for an STI

Medicines for Discharge to treat Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Trichomonas

Also treats Bacterial Vaginosis
See how to decide if you are at risk for an STI.
Medicine How much to take When and how to take
ceftriaxone 250 mg inject into muscle as a single dose
or spectinomycin 2 grams (2000 mg) inject into muscle as a single dose
AND
azithromycin 1 gram
(1000 mg)
by mouth, in a single dose
or doxycycline 100 mg by mouth, 2 times a day for 7 days
(do not use doxycycline if you are pregnant and avoid using it if you are breastfeeding)
or erythromycin 500 mg by mouth, 4 times a day for 7 days
or tetracycline 500 mg by mouth, 4 times a day for 7 days
(do not use tetracycline if you are pregnant or breastfeeding)
or amoxicillin 500 mg by mouth, 3 times a day for 7 days
(amoxicillin can be used if you are pregnant and azithromycin and erythromycin are not available)
AND
metronidazole 400 to 500 mg
or 2 grams (2000 mg)
by mouth, 2 times a day for 7 days
by mouth, in a single dose
(avoid metronidazole in the first 3 months of pregnancy)
or tinidazole 2 grams (2000 mg) by mouth in a single dose
or, if you are pregnant less than 3 months 500mg by mouth, 2 times a day for 5 days
Also treat the woman’s partner with the same medicine.
IMPORTANT! Do not drink alcohol during the time you are taking metronidazole or tinidazole.


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