Leucorrhoea, also known as white discharge, is the fluid secreted from tiny glands in the vagina and cervix. The vaginal secretions are naturally acidic, which not only helps in the prevention of infections but also promotes a good balance of bacteria/flora needed to keep the vagina healthy. It also acts as a natural lubricant.
However, sometimes the vagina’s natural balance can be disrupted due to various reasons and this fluid can change in consistency, colour, and odour, which most often is indicative of an underlying infection or a disease.
What Are The Causes of Leucorrhoea?
In most cases, leucorrhoea or white discharge is natural and can be a recurring one. The amount of vaginal discharge can vary from person to person, as can colour and odour, depending on what day of the menstrual cycle the woman is on.
The Effect of Menstrual Cycle on Vaginal Secretions
Halfway through your menstrual cycle or periods, it is normal to see an increase in the secretion of clear fluid and feel more “wet” as it is suggestive of the ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle (when your ovaries release an egg). After ovulation, the water content of the fluid decreases and you may feel slightly “drier.”
It is important to know the pattern of how your menstrual cycle affects the type of fluid your vagina secretes as it holds important clues to your health.
Note: You are more prone to infections before and during your periods as the pH (acidic) level of the vagina is at its lowest, which makes it easier for the bacteria to thrive.
Apart from physiological causes (menstrual cycle or pregnancy) there are a few other causes of white discharge or leucorrhoea and they include:
1. Use of certain medications such as antibiotics and steroids.
2. Use of contraceptives such as chemical contraceptives (birth control pills) and intrauterine devices can cause hormonal imbalance and increase the risk of infections, which in turn can lead to an abnormal vaginal discharge.
3. Use of douches, tampons, or feminine hygiene products can lead to an abnormal vaginal discharge along with irritation and itching.
4. Infections such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infection are the most common types of infections that can lead to an increase in the secretion of vaginal fluid and also change its colour, consistency, and odour.
5. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, HPV, etc. are known to cause abnormal leucorrhoea.
6. Cervical cancer may or may not present with any symptoms. However, this type of cancer can produce a watery, bloody, or brown discharge with an unpleasant odour.
7. Diabetes, especially when poorly controlled, leads to a reduction in the ability to fight off infections, which makes women more prone to opportunistic infections such as yeast.
8. Mental health issues such as anxiety, acute stress, and sexual tension have been found to have an impact on vaginal secretions.
9. Poor hygiene can lead to infections resulting in an abnormal vaginal discharge.
10. An unhealthy diet and lifestyle can also result in an abnormal vaginal discharge.
What Are The Symptoms of Leucorrhoea?
The symptoms of leucorrhea include:
Thick whitish/yellowish discharge.
Irritation and itching of the vagina.
Unpleasant or foul-smelling discharge.
Lower abdominal pain.
Dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse).
Burning sensation while passing urine and frequent urge to pass urine.
Irritability and lack of concentration at work.
Digestive disturbances like constipation.
How Can Leucorrhoea be Managed?
To manage leucorrhoea:
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and fluids such as teas and soups.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. You must include fresh fruits, vegetables, and probiotics in your diet. Complex carbs (like whole grains, brown rice, oats, etc), lean protein (fish, nuts, sprouts, etc) and low-fat dairy products are a few healthy options to consider.
Maintain proper hygiene. Wear loose, cotton clothes and comfortable undergarments that allow your skin to breathe.
Stay fit and exercise daily. Maintaining a healthy body weight can help you avoid various health issues that could contribute to leucorrhoea.
When to Seek Professional Help?
If you are experiencing the above-mentioned symptoms alongside certain other symptoms like fever, abdominal cramps, unexplained weight loss, etc. or if you are in doubt about whether the vaginal discharge is normal, consult a doctor (OBGYN specialist) as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.