Normal vaginal secretions keep the vagina moist and help to protect against damage or infection. It is usual for women to have a variable amount of vaginal discharge that is white or clear. This can increase or decrease at certain times depending on your monthl cycle, whether you are pregnant, or if you are sexually aroused or "turned on".
Some things, however, can disrupt this normal, healthy balance. Common causes of irritation include antibiotics, clothing, over-washing, or the use of strong soaps, fabric softners, shower gels or vaginal deodorants.
Irritation and any change in vaginal discharge could mean that something is not right. These changes may be:
more discharge than usual
an unpleasant smell,often worse after sex
a change in the colour of discharge
sore,itchy skin around the genital area
discomfort when passing urine
a rash or tiny cuts in the genital area
What Infections Can Affect the Vagina
Women can get a number of different vaginal infections. Two of the most common are called thrush(candidiasis), and bacterial vaginosis(BV) - these infections are not sexually transmitted. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned in this leaflet, visity your doctor or pharmacy for help or advice.
Sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia and trichomonas vainalis (TV or "trichs"), can also cause a heavier discharge than usual so it is important to get any change in discharge checked out if you think you might have a sexual transmitted infection(STI). Information on these, and other infections, are available in the ohter leaflets in this series.
Thrush(Candidiasis) Thrush is a very common infection. It is caused by yeast, known as candida, which usually lives harmlessly on the skin and in the mouth, gut and vagina. It doesn't cause any problemss but, under certain conditions,the yeast multiplies in the vagina and causes a number of uncomfortable symptoms.
Thrush is not usually transmitted sexually but having sex can irritate the vagina and make the symptoms more obvious. Most women will have and episode of thrush at least once in their lifetime. For a small group of women, troublesome, recurrent thrush can occur for no apparent reason.
Other factors can encourage candida to multiply and result in thrush include:
taking antibiotics(some women develop thrush after taking antibiotics and other medication for another illness)
using a vaginal deodorant or perfumed bubble bath
using perfumed fabric softener
using baby/alcohol wipes onthe genital skin
broken skin which is inflamed and irritated
wearing nylon underwear or tight-fitting trousers(a moist, warm environment helps the yeast to flourish)
Thrush can also affect men, particularly those who are not circumcised
Symptoms of Thrush Usually the candida yeast is prevented from multiplying and causing discomfort by other harmless bacteria living in and on the body. However, when these conditions change, symptoms of thrush can occur. You may notice
Itchin, sorness and swelling around the genital area