White vaginal discharge can be a normal part of the female menstruation cycle. As long as the white discharge is thin and odorless, women should not be concerned. If a woman begins experiencing white discharge that is thick, clumpy and causes itching, she might have a yeast infection. Yeast infections are one of the most common causes of white vaginal discharge. Some sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, also can cause abnormal vaginal discharge.
During different parts of the menstrual cycle, the vagina produces discharge as a natural way of taking care of itself. Women may see clear or white vaginal discharge in their panties from time to time. Some women naturally produce more discharge than others. If the discharge is not causing a woman pain and does not have a foul smell, there usually is not reason for her to be alarmed.
When white discharge of a thicker nature appears, this can be a sign of a yeast infection. Vaginal yeast infections occur when the balance between good and bad bacteria in the vagina is thrown off. Common triggers of a yeast infection include antibiotic use, douching and pregnancy.
Thick white vaginal discharge is a classic symptom of a yeast infection. Other symptoms include itching, vaginal burning, a foul odor and pain from sexual intercourse. If a woman has had a yeast infection previously, she might be able to treat herself with an over-the-counter yeast infection cream. Women who have never experienced a yeast infection should seek help from a gynecologist if they develop symptoms of an infection.
A gynecologist might prescribe a prescription cream that can be inserted into the woman's vagina at bedtime. Another option is for the doctor to prescribe an oral medication to treat the yeast infection. A healthy woman should be yeast infection-free within a few days of starting her prescribed treatment.
Bacterial vaginosis and many sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can also cause vaginal discharge. For this reason, it is important for patients to be honest with their doctor about their sexual history. Leaving a sexually transmitted disease untreated can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and reproductive issues.
Yeast infections can be prevented by practicing healthy habits at home. Women should not douche. The vagina is designed to clean itself naturally. It also is important for women to change out of wet bathing suits promptly after swimming. An excessively moist vaginal area can allow a yeast infection can thrive.
Women who experience chronic yeast infections should talk to a doctor about long-term treatment. It also can be beneficial for chronic yeast infection sufferers to add extra yogurt and garlic to their diets, because these foods help fight yeast. If a woman knows that she is prone to yeast infections, she might benefit from asking her doctor for an oral yeast infection treatment pill whenever a round of antibiotics is prescribed.