Vaginal Odour

What Is Vaginal Odour?

Vaginal odour is defined as an odour or smell that comes from the vagina and may vary throughout your menstrual cycle. Whilst a slight odour may be normal, a strong odour may indicate an underlying infection. Abnormal odour is usually accompanied by vaginal signs and symptoms including itching, burning, irritation change in colour and volume of vaginal discharge, spotting and pain or discomfort on urination.

The Causes Of vaginal odour?

The causes of vaginal odour may be divided into infectious versus noninfectious causes.

Infectious causes of vaginal odour include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis 
    • This condition is caused by a shift in the normal vaginal flora to other types of bacterial species which can result in abnormal vaginal odour, typically described as “fishy” and off-white or grey discharge with possible burning and irritation.  
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease 
    • This is an infection involving the woman’s reproductive system involving the uterus (womb), cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries or the vagina. The commonest causes are sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

Non-infectious causes of vaginal odour include:

  • Neglected foreign body (including retained tampon)
  • Pelvic fistula whether rectovaginal (abnormal opening between the rectum and vagina which causes faeces to leak into the vagina) or vesicovaginal (abnormal opening between the bladder and vagina causing urine to leak into the vagina) 
  • Poor hygiene
  • Cancers involving the vagina or cervix 
  • The urine of faecal incontinence

Treatment Options

  • The treatment will depend on the underlying cause. If an infectious cause is found, the doctor will prescribe appropriate antibiotics or anti-parasitic agents for the treatment of either bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease or trichomoniasis
  • If a fistula is discovered, the treatment may involve surgical repairs performed by a surgeon.
  • For urine and faecal incontinence, this also would be reviewed by a specialist and appropriate medical with or without surgical management is involved. 
  • Similarly, cancers of the cervix or vagina would be managed by the appropriate specialists.  
  • Simple measures can be done by the individual at home and this would involve washing the external genital area with mild soap and water and avoidance of vaginal douching as douching can cause disruption to the healthy balance of vaginal flora.

If you are concerned regarding a change in the vaginal odour, volume and appearance as well as if there are accompanying symptoms of itching, burning, irritation or bleeding outside menstruation, it is advisable to visit the doctor for review.

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