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Leukorrhea (US) or leucorrhoea (Commonwealth) is a medical term that denotes a thick, whitish or yellowish vaginal discharge. There are many causes of leukorrhea, the usual one being estrogen imbalance. The amount of discharge may increase due to vaginal infection or STDs, and also it may disappear and reappear from time to time, this discharge can keep occurring for years in which case it becomes more yellow and foul-smelling; it is usually a non-pathological symptom secondary to inflammatory conditions of vagina or cervix.
Vaginal discharge is not abnormal, and causes of change in discharge include infection, malignancy, and hormonal changes. It sometimes occurs before a girl has her first period, and is considered a sign of puberty.
It is not a major issue but is to be resolved as soon as possible. It can be a natural defense mechanism that the vagina uses to maintain its chemical balance, as well as to preserve the flexibility of the vaginal tissue. The term "physiologic leukorrhea" is used to refer to leukorrhea due to estrogen stimulation.
Leukorrhea may occur normally during pregnancy. This is caused by increased bloodflow to the vagina due to increased estrogen. Female infants may have leukorrhea for a short time after birth due to their in-uterine exposure to estrogen.
It may also result from inflammation or congestion of the vaginal mucosa. In cases where it is yellowish or gives off an odor, a doctor should be consulted since it could be a sign of several disease processes, including an organic bacterial infection or STD.
After delivery, leukorrhea accompanied by backache and foul-smelling lochia (post-partum vaginal discharge, containing blood, mucus, and placental tissue) may suggest the failure of involution (the uterus returning to pre-pregnancy size) due to infection. Investigations: wet smear, Gram stain, culture, pap smear and biopsy.