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Includes Expert Content
Persistent Vaginal Discharge
Anxiously posted:
I am 50 year old menopausal woman. Recently, I have been experiencing vaginal discharges, with no itching. The discharge is from a clear to a light yellow in color with no odor. I have been experiencing this for over a week now. I am getting tired of having to wear panty liners and going to the bathroom to change them. Can someone tell me why the discharges and is it something that I should be concerned about and will it go away on its own?
Jane Harrison Hohner, RN, RNP responded:
Dear Anxiously: A normal discharge is made up from exfoliated vaginal skin cells, bacteria, and secretions from the cervix and vaginal walls. While as many as 30 types of bacteria can be found in normal vaginal discharge, about 95% of a healthy vaginal bacteria population consists of lactobacilli. There are several subtypes of lactobacilli, but the most important type produces hydrogen peroxide. Group B strep, E. Coli, and Staph aureus (normal skin bacteria) were frequently cultured in a group of 631 women, many of whom had no symptoms (Donder, 2002). In a study of 141 GYN surgical patients, Group B strep was found in the vaginal secretions of 20%This suggests that many types of bacteria can be a part of the vaginal ecology.

Other changes in vaginal bacteria can arise from a new sexual partner (you did not mention this), semen, and in a premenopausal women, menstrual flow. Among postmenopausal women who do not use estrogen one can find pH changes which impact bacterial growth. In the absence of estrogen the pH is more alkaline which favors the growth of some types of "bad" bacteria and decreases the amounts of the beneficial, good, lactobacilli vaginal bacteria.

Lastly, unusual discharges can be triggered by uncommon causes such as a fibroid prolapsed into the vagina. A lesion in the genital tract may be indicated only by a new discharge.

Bottom line, if you have a new sexual partner or this annoying discharge persists you should see your GYN--or even your local family planning clinic. They can examine a sample of the discharge and evaluate the vagina for the presence of low estrogen, if indicated.


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