Interpret vaginal secretion correctly

Interpret vaginal secretion correctly

The  discharge  of vaginal secretions is normal, but how much is normal and what indications can changes in vaginal secretions provide for possible vaginal diseases? Here you can find out what the quantity, consistency, smell and color of the vaginal fluid say about the vaginal flora and possible diseases of the vagina.

Vaginal discharge: how much is normal?

How much vaginal secretion is produced every day varies from woman to woman: some women’s panties are almost snow-white in the evening, for others one or two panty liners a day are normal. Usually a total of  5 ml per day is  not exceeded.

The amount (as well as the composition, consistency and smell) of the vaginal fluid changes not only over the course of life, but also during the female cycle, controlled by the sex hormones, estrogen in particular. It is formed in greater numbers shortly before ovulation in order to create a particularly fertile environment, and then increases again shortly before the menstrual period.

In rare cases, larger amounts are constantly secreted, which require changing panties or panty liners several times a day without finding an organic reason – a condition that can be extremely distressing. It is believed that these affected women have overactive glands in the vaginal region, similar to how some people tend to sweat excessively   .

What does discharge mean?

It is confusing that some authors make a different distinction:  for them, vaginal secretion  is what is used to moisten the vagina during sexual intercourse,  while discharge  is always pathological.

However, this does not correspond to the usual classification in medicine, in which discharge, i.e.  fluorine  – can be both normal and pathological depending on the severity, composition and cause.

The constantly produced vaginal secretion is an important part of the protective process with which the vagina is protected from external influences and dead cells, blood, pathogens and sperm are transported to the outside.

It also makes the mucous membranes less susceptible to minor injuries due to the constant moistening. The vaginal environment,  i.e. the composition of the secretion and what colonizes the mucous membrane, has an enormously important part in the vaginal protective function  .

Vaginal discharge: which appearance is normal?

The vaginal secretion, which is constantly produced in small quantities, consists of sloughed-off mucous membrane cells of the vagina, water, salts,  urea , acids and proteins as well as bacteria and isolated blood cells.

Normal, healthy vaginal secretions are white-transparent (“fluorine alba”), liquid and do not give off any particular smell. During the middle of the cycle the amount may increase, the discharge is then clear. The secretion often becomes more viscous around ovulation.

Incidentally, vaginal secretion, which is produced during sexual arousal, is produced by squeezing fluid out of the cells of the swollen mucous membrane and serves to moisten (lubrication); it mixes with a mucous secretion from the Bartholin’s glands at the entrance to the vagina.

Changes in vaginal secretions

Changes in the consistency, color and smell of the vaginal secretions can also indicate a disturbance in the vaginal flora:

  • If the vaginal discharge  smells bad, for example,  this can be a sign of bacterial overgrowth in the vagina. Affected women often perceive a “fishy” smell, the secretion can become thin.
  • vaginal fungus  (vaginal mycosis) often manifests itself as a  whitish-yellow vaginal discharge. The consistency of the vaginal secretion is then often rather creamy or crumbly.
  • Even if the discharge  is yellow, brownish or greenish  , this can be an indication of a pathological change. This also applies if the vaginal discharge  is bloody, foamy or crumbly  .
  • Likewise,  itching , pain and burning  in the genital area are warning signs that should be taken seriously.

However, the color, quantity and smell of the vaginal secretions vary not only  due to hormones  (i.e. during the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, under the “pill”), but can also change in the short term due to  food  . For example,  onionsgarlic  and hot spices are not only exhaled through the breath and skin, but also through the mucous membranes.

Composition of the vaginal flora

The acidic pH of the vaginal flora makes life difficult for many pathogens and is caused by lactate. This lactic acid is produced by the numerous “good”  lactobacilli normally present in the vagina  when they break down glycogen, a sugar that is stored in the mucous membrane cells under the influence of hormones.

But the lactobacilli, which are often referred to as Döderlein sticks, produce even more:

  • other toxic acids and hydrogen peroxide
  • Metabolism products (bacteriocins) that inhibit germ growth
  • Biosurfactants that prevent other bacteria from clinging to the vaginal wall
  • Coaggregation molecules that prevent pathogens from migrating.

This mixture makes it almost impossible for most potentially pathogenic germs to establish themselves in the vagina. This makes it clear how important a healthy vaginal flora is.

Causes of a diseased vaginal flora

A permanently unhealthy diet, like other factors, can disturb the vaginal flora and thus lead to complaints and diseases. These include, for example:

  • excessive personal hygiene
  • very tight pants, especially made of synthetic fibers
  • drug therapy, such as  antibiotics
  • allergies
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • stress and mental strain

Infections and other vaginal problems

If the vaginal environment is out of balance, pathogenic bacteria have an easy time: they can gain the upper hand and “overgrow” the healthy mucous membrane flora (bacterial vaginosis). Trichomonads  (flagellates that cause a sexually transmitted disease),  fungi  (especially the yeast fungus Candida albicans) and viruses (e.g. the herpes virus) are then more likely to grow and penetrate 

In addition to infections, benign and malignant tumors in the vagina and uterus and – especially in curious little girls – introduced and forgotten foreign bodies lead to pathological discharge.  If the inflammatory reactions are localized in the area of ​​the labia, they are also referred to by the doctor as  vulvitis in the vagina as  vaginitis  (or vaginitis) or – since both areas are often affected – as  vulvovaginitis .


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