Vaginal discharge is a function of the reproductive system in women. It helps clear bacteria and dead cells and prevents infection. This discharge keeps the vagina clean. It is secreted by glands found in cervix and vagina. In most cases, it is perfectly normal to have vaginal discharge but the amount may vary as well as the odor and color. The color ranges from whitish to milky. There are times when there is more discharge especially when breastfeeding, ovulating, and if sexually aroused.
However, in these situations and changes in discharge, there is no cause for alarm. Nonetheless, sometimes the smell, consistence, and color of discharge may deviate from the normal particularly, if it is accompanied by burning sensation, itching, and strong foul smell. In most cases, an infection causes such abnormal changes.
What do different colored discharges mean?
Grey discharge is mostly associated with an infection known as bacterial vaginosis. Different infections can occur in the vagina including Chlamydia or gonorrhea, yeast infection, vaginitis, and parasitic infection. However, each of these infections will bring different changes in discharge.
For example, a froth, greenish or yellow appearance of vaginal discharge with bad smell may be a sign of trichomoniasis, which is a parasitic infection caused by indulging in unprotected sex. A bloody or brown discharge may be due to irregular menstrual cycles or endometrial cancer.
A cloudy and yellow discharge signifies gonorrhea and may come with other symptoms like pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, and bleeding between periods. Having a pink discharge may mean shedding of uterine lining following birth. A thick, whitish and cheesy discharge is a sign of yeast infection, and it often occurs with pain and swelling around vulva, painful sexual intercourse, and itching.
Causes of grey discharge
The main culprit when a woman has grey discharge is an infection known as bacterial vaginosis. This is a mild infection that affects vagina and is caused by bacteria. In vagina, there are the good bacteria and bad bacteria. The good bacteria consist of a bacterial flora that helps keep vagina clean by sweeping away dead cells and harmful bacteria.
In a woman who has bacterial vaginosis, the balance of the bad and good bacteria is upset where there is too much of the bad ones. While the condition may go away when the bacteria come in balance, at times, it may require treatment. Having more than one partner in sex or having a new partner for sex may increase the chances of having too many bad bacteria. Douching is another possible cause.
Women with this infection will have smelly vaginal discharge, which looks yellow or grey white. One notable sign of the infection is a fishy smelly odor coming from the discharge and this may feel worse after having sex. Sometimes, women may not notice any symptoms. While the infection may not cause other complications, when not treated, it can result in miscarriage among pregnant women.
It may also cause early delivery as well as post-pregnancy uterine infection. A pelvic infection may occur after abortion or having cesarean section if you have bacterial vaginosis.
Sometimes, an infection called vulvovaginal candidiasis also known as thrush or yeast infection may have whitish discharge. This may appear like grey but in this case, it is much more whitish than grey. It is caused by a fungus known as candida. The infection can occur when there is imbalance in the vaginal environment.
It may not be a serious infection but it comes with itching and discomfort. The discharge from this infection has a cottage cheese like texture and is white in color. It occurs alongside burning sensation and itching. However, in this case, it is usually odorless. It may cause pain during sexual intercourse, and the vulva area may become red and swollen. The burning sensation is felt when passing urine. Antifungal creams may be used to treat the infection such as miconazole and clotrimazole.
Treatment of grey discharge
Treating grey discharge will require a doctor to determine the cause. The discharge may be caused by bacterial vaginosis meaning treatment of this infection is needed after diagnosis. Since women having this infection may not show symptoms, it is paramount that tests are conducted.
Some women may have thin off- white or grey discharge that will worsen when the wash with soap or douche, after menstruation, and having sex. Over the counter medications such as oral antibiotics may be used; the common ones being metronidazole or clindamycin. Sometimes, the treatment needs to be done for a long time because reoccurrence of the infection can occur.
In time of treatment, a patient should avoid doing sex. The male partner may not necessarily need treatment. In case you have grey discharge that is accompanied by foul smell, or without any odor but with other symptoms like burning sensation and itching, consult with a doctor to find out the cause and appropriate treatment.
Filed in: Women's Health