Statistics from the American Sexual Health Association indicates that more than 50% of all people will have an sexually transmitted diseases (STD) at some point in their lifetime, with over 14 million people acquire HPV each year.
Human papillomavirus (HPV), commonly contracted through sexual relations, is a common virus that has been identified as the cause of many infections which manifest as symptoms appearing in the genital area or other parts of the body.
Many queries about HPV have sought to know if it actually promotes vaginal discharge while causing smelly odor, so let’s first understand:
Normal Vaginal Discharge vs Signs of Infection
Vaginal discharge is a mixture mostly made up of mucous, dead skin, and bacteria. It is normal to experience some form of mucousy fluid which you are already used to, in which it helps to keep the vagina clean and healthy. Any experience more than the normal discharge should catch your attention, as this is usually an indication of any underlying infection.
So what does “normal” discharge look like?
We should consider the color, texture of the discharge. According to MedicineNet, the color of discharge can range from clear to a milky white-ish.
Does it have a strong smell? No, it shouldn’t. It should be odorless or it might have a slight scent.
Check out the brief video below by Board Certified Gynecologist Dr. Adelaide Nardone, to learn more about vaginal discharge, odor, and wetness.
Recommended read: Pap Smear Abnormal – What Are the 10 Possible Causes Besides HPV?
A woman’s menstrual cycle can also influence the features of her vaginal discharge. Other situations where changes might be experienced include when a woman is nursing a child, or about to engage in a sex. In these situations, an increase in vaginal discharge is not an indication of an infection.
The common indication of an infection is when you experience vaginal discharge which is accompanied by pains, irritation, foul smelling liquid and burning sensation in the vagina.
Experiencing these symptoms is usually signs of more severe disorders, like genital HPV infection.
Does HPV Cause Symptoms like Vaginal Discharge and Smelly Odor?
HPV infections can distort the normal features of the cells that are found in the cervix which can result in cancer without medical intervention. Cervical cancer usually has no symptoms in the early stages, with the most effective way to confirm an infection is by running a comprehensive test.
As emphasized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is important for women to have regular Pap tests done to ensure cervical cancer is not developing without notice, with a diagnosis can prompt the commencement of treatment early.
Cervical cancer, primarily caused by high-risk HPV 16 and 18, will be evident only when the affected cells become prominent through the cervical walls. This is the result of untreated cancerous cells.
Some of these cells will die off due to inadequate oxygen, hence infecting the tumor. This will lead to the production of more fluids which will be experienced as vaginal discharge. This discharge usually has an unpleasant smell; it could also be clear, whitish or reddish.
According to Women’s Health Concern, women who undergo treatment for cervical cancer may experience the following:
- One of the treatments used in cervical cancer cases is Cryotherapy. It is aimed at destroying the neoplastic cells by means of a generated thermal shock. This treatment is continued for as long as six weeks. Women who undergo this process usually report the sighting of a water fluid being discharged from the vagina. The doctors’ advice at this stage is to avoid sex and the use of sanitary tampons.
- The Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) is another treatment for female patients. Women who have gone through this procedure report the sighting of brownish or darker colored discharge consistently for about 14 days.
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Asides cervical cancer, HPV has been linked with anal cancer. This is not surprising due to the position of the vagina and the anus. From the statistics, 80% of the anal cancer cases were linked with HPV, such as high-risk HPV type 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
Medical News Today indicates common symptoms of anal cancer may include mucus or jelly-like discharge from the anus, alongside a feeling of a lump in the anal area.
Alarmingly, studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine have shown HPV shed into vaginal discharge could be spread by contact with fingers and oral sex.
Genital wart, or Condylomata Acuminata, is another common infection caused by HPV, such as low-risk HPV types 6 and 11. These cauliflower-like skin lesions can be found inside / outside the vagina or anus of females, and penis or scrotum in males.
Wart is a less severe infection, however its symptoms can lead to a disturbing experience. Patients diagnosed with HPV genital warts usually experience bleeding, itching, pain, and discharge with unpleasant fishy smell.
Other Vaginal Infections that can Cause Abnormal Discharge Color
HPV infections can cause an increase in vaginal discharge, however, many of these infections are usually not fatal.
If you are experiencing an increased vaginal discharge with abnormal colors which smells bad, it might have been caused by other vaginal infections, such as:
- Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) – this condition is characterized by the swelling of the vagina walls due to the excessive presence of the normal occurring bacteria in the vagina. Two classes of bacteria are commonly found in the vagina, they are the lactobacilli which promote healthy bacteria and the anaerobes which have a negative impact on vaginal health. Bacterial vaginosis is diagnosed when the anaerobes outnumber the lactobacilli. This condition is characterized by a repulsive smelling discharge which could either look whitish, greenish or gray in color.
- Yeast infections cause a lot of discomfort in women. The symptoms are thickened discharge usually white in color. The discharge, in this case, is not characteristically foul smelling.
- Trichomoniasis is another condition that could affect your normal vaginal discharge. Women suffer from itching and discomforting burning sensations as a result of this sexually transmitted disease. The discharge is usually yellowish, gray or green. Women in this condition report experiencing difficulty during urination.
Check out the video below to learn more about abnormal signs of vaginal discharge.
Recommended read: Boost your Body Immunity to Prevent and Cure HPV Infections
The reproductive system in women is delicate and prone to undergo certain changes when an infection occurs. When infections are left untreated, the patients may experience infertility later in life.
Infections like HPV and a wide range of STDs can cause an increase in vaginal discharge. This is usually accompanied by varying levels of irritation and discomfort. It is important that women know the common symptoms. With this information, medical attention should be quickly sought once any abnormality is noticed.
If you experience an increase of vaginal discharge with unusual color or odor, or if you notice growths in the genital area, see your doctor to better diagnose your symptoms to conclude if it is caused by Human Papillomavirus.