Vaginal discharge might be a cause of discomfort to many women but little do they know that it serves an important function for their reproductive health. The fluid released by the glands in the vagina and cervix take care of the dead bacteria and dead cells to keep the vagina naturally clean and prevent any kind of infection. However the vaginal discharge can be abnormal in some cases. It can be different in its consistency, odor and hue. Vaginal discharge depends on a lot of things such as hormonal changes, ovulation, breast feeding, and sexual activities. The smell can be different and a bit offensive when there is lack of proper hygiene and during pregnancy. The discharge can be smelly before and after the period also. If there are other symptoms such as itching, redness or burning along with a bad odor then it could be a sign of another underlying condition. Changes in the normal bacterial balance can also affect the color, consistency and odor of the vaginal discharge. The discharge can be brown in case there is a release of the old menstrual blood which comes out with the discharge. It can also be due to irregular periods or even due to orendometrial cancer.
Causes of brown, smelly discharge
The main reasons for this condition to arise are as follows:
It is normal for the discharge to increase with certain activities such as hormonal level, ovulation, stress, sexual activity and consumption of birth control pills. The other major reasons can be described as follows:
- Bacterial Vaginosis
This is a very common bacterial infection and leads to a fish like smelly odor. Women engaging in oral sex and having multiple sexual partners have a more risk of having this kind of a discharge.
This is another kind of a protozoan vaginal problem caused due to sexual contact, any other kind of physical contact, and exchange of body fluids or even sharing of personal items such as towels, clothes etc. along with the discharge pain, itching and inflammation are associate symptoms.
- Yeast Infection
It is a fungal infection which leads to a thick cottage cheese like discharge with burning and itchiness. The growth of the yeast can multiply and get out of control in many situations.
- Gonorrhea and Chlamydia
Sexually transmitted infections like these can also cause abnormal smelly discharge which can be lighter brown in color.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
This is another sexually transmitted infection occurring as a bacteria spreading up to the vagina as well as other reproductive organs. The discharge in this case could be heavier and foul smelling.
- Other causes include:
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) or Cervical Cancer
- Excessive consumption of birth control pills, Antibiotic or steroids
- Cervical cancer
- Too much Douching, using scented cosmetics
- Menopause, pregnancy
In order to diagnose, the doctors usually take into account the health history and associated symptoms such as the time of the beginning of discharge, the color, odor and intensity of the discharge. Other symptoms like pain, itching etc are also taken into consideration. Having multiple sexual partners, douching etc are also a diagnostic criteria. The doctor can also take the sample of discharge and a Pap test for the cervical examination which is very essential for the diagnosis.
The treatment depends on the causes and the symptoms. For instance discharge due to a yeast infection is treated with the help of anti fungal medicines either taken orally or inserting into vagina such as creams or gels. Discharge due to Trichomoniasis is mostly treated by using the drugs such as metronidazole or tinidazole.
It is possible and convenient to take preventive measures to stay away from unhealthy vaginal discharge. It is essential to keep the vaginal area as clean as possible. It should be washed using a mild soap with warm water. Too much douching and repetitive cleaning is not recommended as it will kill the healthy bacteria which prevent vaginal infection and disorders. Scented products such as sprays, bubble baths should be avoided in all conditions. If you are sharing a toilet with too many people you should be more careful and always wipe the seat before using it or else such infections can also become a reason for abnormal and smelly brown discharge.
If the discharge is accompanied by unexpected symptoms such as pain, cramps, fever, nausea and itching then one must consult a doctor at the earliest. It is wise to know the difference between a normal and an unhealthy discharge. One must also refrain from touching the vaginal area if there is a feeling of itching. Eating yogurt and consumption of pro biotic drinks is a healthy option to prevent unwanted vaginal infections and to keep the vagina as well as the reproductive system healthy.