What is trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis (“trich”) is a
sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is very common. According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.7
million Americans are infected with trichomoniasis
at any given time. Trich is easily treated.
What are the symptoms of trichomoniasis?
Trich often has no symptoms. The
CDC reports that only
30 percent of people with trich report
any symptoms at all. In one study, 85 percent of
affected women did not have any symptoms.
When symptoms do occur, they often
begin five to 28 days after a person is infected. Although for some people
it can take much longer.
The most common symptoms
among women are:
- vaginal discharge, which can be white, gray,
yellow, or green, and usually frothy with an unpleasant smell
- vaginal spotting or bleeding
- genital burning or itching
- genital redness or swelling
- frequent urge to urinate
- pain during urination or sexual intercourse
The most common
symptoms in men are:>
- discharge from the urethra
- burning during urination or after ejaculation
- an urge to urinate frequently
What causes trichomoniasis?
Trich is caused by a one-celled
protozoan organism called Trichomonas vaginalis. It travels from person
to person through genital contact during sex.
In women, the organism causes
an infection in the vagina, urethra, or both. In men, the infection only
happens in the urethra. Once the infection begins, it can easily be spread
through unprotected genital contact.
Trich is not spread through
normal physical contact such as hugging, kissing, sharing dishes, or sitting on
a toilet seat. In addition, it can’t be spread through sexual contact that
doesn’t involve the genitals.
What are the risk factors for trichomoniasis?
million new cases of trich are estimated each
year, according to the American Sexual Health Association and the CDC. Trichomoniasis is more common in women than in men, and 2.3 million women with the infection are between the ages of 14 and 49. It’s
more common among older women than younger women. One
study showed that women over 40 are twice as likely to
be infected as previously suggested.
Your risk of infection can increase
due to having:
- multiple sexual partners
- a history of other STIs
- previous trichomoniasis infections
- sex without a condom
How is trichomoniasis diagnosed?
Trich symptoms are similar to
those of other STIs. It can’t be diagnosed by symptoms alone. See your doctor
for a physical exam and laboratory tests if you think that you might have an
A number of tests can
diagnose trich, including:
- cell cultures
- antigen tests (antibodies bind if the Trichomonas
parasite is present, which causes a color change that indicates infection)
- tests that look for Trichomonas DNA
- examining samples of vaginal fluid (for women)
or urethral discharge (for men) under a microscope
How is trichomoniasis treated?
Trichomoniasis can be cured
with antibiotics. Your doctor may recommend metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax). Do not drink any
alcohol for the first 24 hours after taking metronidazole or the first 72 hours
after taking tinidazole. It can cause severe nausea and vomiting.
Make sure your sexual
partners are properly tested and take the medication, too. Not having any
symptoms doesn’t mean they don’t have the infection. You will need to avoid
sexual contact for a week after all partners have been treated.
What is the outlook for someone with
Without treatment, a trich
infection can be ongoing. With treatment, trichomoniasis is usually cured
within a week.
You can contract trich again
after treatment if your partner was not treated or if a new partner has the
infection. Reduce your chances of having the infection again by making sure all
of your sexual partners get treatment. Then, wait for the infection to clear
before becoming sexually active again. It is recommended that you wait one week
after taking your medication before having sex again.
Your symptoms should go away
after a week. If your symptoms continue longer, talk to your doctor about
getting retested and retreated.
See your doctor for a follow-up
test for trich at least three months after your treatment. The reinfection rate
for women can be as high as 17 percent in
the three months after treatment. Reinfection
is possible even if your partners were treated as well. There are cases of
trich being resistant to certain medications.
Some tests can be conducted as
soon as two weeks after your treatment. Because of a lack of data supporting rescreening for men, they are generally not retested.
Are there any possible complications of
A trich infection can make it
easier to contract other STIs. Genital inflammation caused by trichomoniasis can
increase your risk of getting HIV, along with other STIs. It also becomes
easier for you to spread the virus to someone else when you have trich.
Other conditions such as
gonorrhea, chlamydia, and bacterial vaginosis often occur with trich. Untreated
infections can result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Complications of
- fallopian tube blockage due to scar tissue
- chronic abdominal or pelvic pain
Trich can cause unique
complications in pregnant women. There can be a higher chance of delivering
prematurely or delivering a baby with low birth weight. Although rare, the
infection can be transmitted to the baby during delivery.
study suggested that your child’s risk of developing an
intellectual disability increases if you have trich during pregnancy.
It’s safe to take the
medications metronidazole and tinidazole during pregnancy. No adverse effects
have been noted.
If you are pregnant and
suspect that you have trich or any other STI, talk to your doctor as soon as
possible to prevent complications for you and your child.
How do you prevent trichomoniasis?
You can only fully prevent
trich by abstaining from all sexual activity.
Use latex condoms during
sexual intercourse to reduce your chances of contracting trich and other STIs.