Changes in vaginal discharge from what a woman perceives as normal are often associated with underlying pathology. It is important that clinicians are aware of the more common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge so they can target management appropriately.
Abnormal vaginal discharge is a common presentation to GPs in Australia. Based on the BEACH data, approximately two in every 1000 patient encounters with GPs, or approximately 200,000 patient encounters per year across the country are for abnormal vaginal discharge.
Vaginal discharge is a normal physiological phenomenon that varies throughout the menstrual cycle under the influence of oestrogen and progesterone. The vaginal epithelium is rich in glycogen and is used by commensal lactobacilli to maintain acidity of the vagina. Loss of vaginal acidity may facilitate vaginal colonisation by pathogens or overgrowth of other vaginal organisms, leading to a change in character of the vaginal discharge.