White Discharge: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

    White Discharge: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

    Women experience vaginal discharge of different types, especially during ovulation or just before the menstrual period. This discharge is called leukorrhea. The discharge contains fluid and bacteria from the cells in the vagina. Most women produce approximately a teaspoon of transparent or milky white discharge every day. But this can happen before a woman gets her menstrual period. She may experience white discharge when the body has higher levels of progesterone.

    Sometimes leukorrhea can also point to underlying conditions or infections.

    Symptoms associated with milky white discharge

    When leukorrhea is a result of medical conditions or infections, it can be accompanied by other symptoms. Symptoms that point to underlying pathology include:

    • Pain and heaviness in the lower abdomen
    • General weakness
    • Itching in the private parts
    • Foul-smelling discharge
    • Pain or burning sensation while passing urine
    • Lumbago or pain in the back
    • Pain in thighs or calf muscles
    • Pruritus
    • Headache and Dizziness
    • Anemia
    • Breathlessness
    • Pain in menstruation
    • Polyuria

    milky white discharge

    Causes of transparent or milky white discharge

    Leukorrhea can be normal. Some medical conditions that can cause abnormal leukorrhea are:

    STD or STI

    Milky white discharge can be due to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea, trichomoniasis or chlamydia. If you see milky white discharge or discharge of any color, visit the doctor’s clinic and get medical help.

    White discharge during pregnancy

    Discharge before you get your period can be an early sign of pregnancy. Discharge from pregnancy can be challenging to tell apart from discharge from your monthly cycle. Usually, it is thicker and creamier than normal discharge.

    Normal reproductive system functioning

    It is normal to experience some form of discharge a week or two after your period. This is sometimes described as egg white mucus. It is because the discharge is very thin, clear with slippery texture, stretchy, and odorless.

    Birth control pills

    Birth control pills change your hormone levels, which can affect the vaginal discharge. Vaginal discharge is one of the common side effects caused by birth control pills. This discharge tends to be thick and pasty.

    Bacterial vaginosis causing copious, off-white discharge

    Bacterial vaginosis is an infection that occurs when there is a change in the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina. The exact cause of this is still unknown. But some studies have found links between copious, off-white discharge and multiple sexual partners, smoking and douching. You will know its bacterial vaginosis when the discharge smells fishy.

    Yeast infection

    Also known as candidiasis, yeast infections are common and may occur when one has a weakened immune system, has uncontrolled blood sugar, recent intake of strong antibiotics, or hormonal imbalance. Discharge from a yeast infection is white and thick and is often described as cottage cheese-like. A yeast infection often causes a burning or itchy sensation in the vulva and vagina.

    Risk Factors

    Here are a few risk factors of leukorrhoea:

    • Candida albicans infection – It can cause extreme itchiness in the vagina accompanied by a thick milky white discharge.
    • Trichomonas vaginalis infection – This condition involves the lining of the vagina’s membrane and cervix. It causes a type of persistent milky white discharge and inflammation.
    • Medications – In some cases, certain medications that kill bacteria may also kill healthy bacteria, thus causing excessive growth of yeast in the vaginal area.
    • Diabetes – Women with diabetes are more at risk of producing vaginal discharge due to excess blood sugar levels.
    • Clothes – Wearing tight or wet clothes may also increase your risk of getting a yeast infection.

    Diagnosis

    If you see a change in vaginal discharge, you should visit the doctor’s clinic and get medical help. Your doctor will suggest a few tests after a physical examination.

    Tests that your doctor may order are as follows:

    • STD test: In this test, a sample of discharge is collected and sent to a lab to test for STDs like trichomonas, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
    • Pelvic examination: Your doctor may examine your vagina and cervix to look for any abnormalities.
    • Wet mount: Your doctor may collect a sample of your discharge and examine it under a microscope to find trichomonas, yeast or bacterial infection that causes the white discharge.
    • pH test: Your doctor will check the acid level of the discharge as infections can cause changes in the acidity of the vagina or the pH levels.

    Treatment

    For normal discharge, it requires no treatment or medication. However, abnormal discharge or milky white discharge accompanied by itchiness and inflammation can be managed with home remedies, lifestyle changes and medications.

    Your doctor, in the event of infection, may prescribe medications or recommend OTC medicines that are helpful to treat the condition.

    For yeast infections, your doctor may prescribe antifungal drugs that are required to be inserted into the vagina or taken orally.

    Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you are suffering from trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and bacterial vaginosis.

    Some women try douching to treat vaginal infections. However, you must know douching washes away healthy bacteria too. This can cause you other health conditions. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid douching or it should be done under your doctor’s guidance.

    Lifestyle changes

    The following are a few suggestions that will ensure optimal vaginal health.

    • After using the toilet, ensure you are wiping the area from the vagina to anus, commonly known as wiping from front to back. This helps to prevent bacteria from entering the vagina.
    • Use probiotics as it encourages vaginal health. Also, it fights against infections and bacteria, helping your urinary tract.
    • Avoid pantyhose and wear breathable cotton underwear. Choose breathable clothes and avoid tight and synthetic underwear as it increases the risks of vaginal infections.
    • Avoid douching and tampons. Both can help enter new microbes into the vagina, increasing the risk of vaginal infection.
    • Keep your genital area clean and dry always.
    • Always have your partner use a condom during male-female sexual intercourse. This helps to prevent any sexually transmitted infections or diseases.
    • Avoid using perfumed products for your vagina. Scented wipes, bubble baths or vaginal deodorants can cause irritation.

    Home Remedies

    Here are the home remedies for white discharge that you must know:

    • Increase your water intake.
    • Once a day, drink a glass of fresh cranberry juice without adding any sugar.
    • Consume probiotics like yogurt, kimchi, kefir or sauerkraut daily to fight against infections in the urinary tract.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

    Obstetrics and Gynecology


    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jul 02, 2022

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