Trichomoniasis, sometimes called “trich,” is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is very common: according to the Centers for Disease Control, 3.7 million Americans are infected with Trichomoniasis at any given time. Fortunately, it is also easily treatable.
Trichomoniasis often has no symptoms, especially in men.
When symptoms do occur, they can begin anywhere from three to 28 days after being infected.
The most common symptoms among women are:
- vaginal discharge, which may be white, gray, yellow, or green and usually has an unpleasant smell
- blood spotting
- burning or itching sensation in the genitals
- genital redness or swelling
- an urge to urinate frequently
- pain during urination or sexual intercourse
The most common symptoms among men are:
- discharge from the urethra
- burning during urination or after ejaculation
- an urge to urinate frequently
A one-celled protozoan organism called Trichomonas vaginalis causes trichomoniasis. This tiny parasite travels from person to person via genital contact during sexual intercourse.
Trichomoniasis is more common in women than in men. It is more common among older women than younger women.
Additional risk factors include having multiple sexual partners, a history of other STIs, previous trichomoniasis infections, and having sex without a condom.
Because the symptoms of trichomoniasis are similar to those of other STIs, it cannot be diagnosed based only on symptoms. You will need to see a doctor for a physical exam and laboratory tests.
There are a number of different tests that can be used to diagnose trichomoniasis, including:
- cell cultures
- antigen tests (antibodies bind if the Trichomonas parasite is present, causing a color change that indicates infection)
- tests that look for the presence of Trichomonas DNA
- examining samples of vaginal fluid (for women) or urine (for men) under a microscope
A trichomoniasis infection may make it easier to contract other STIs, particularly HIV. This is because the genital inflammation caused by trichomoniasis makes it easier for someone to become infected with HIV and to spread the virus to someone else.
For pregnant women, trichomoniasis can cause additional complications. Pregnant women with trichomoniasis are more likely to deliver prematurely and to deliver a baby with low birth weight. It is also possible to transmit the infection to the baby during delivery.
Trichomoniasis can be cured with a single dose of antibiotics. You may be prescribed either metronidazole (Flagyl, Tindamax) or tinidazole. It is also important for any of your sexual partners to take the medication too, whether or not they have experienced any symptoms.
You should not drink any alcohol for the first 24 hours after taking a dose of metronidazole and for the first 72 hours after a dose of tinidazole, as it can cause severe nausea and vomiting.
You will need to avoid sexual contact until the infection clears. This typically takes about a week.
Without treatment, a trichomoniasis infection can last for months or even years. With treatment, though, trichomoniasis is usually cured within a week.
Even after treatment, it is possible to contract trichomoniasis again. You can reduce the odds of having the infection recur by making sure all of your sexual partners get treatment and waiting for the infection to clear completely before engaging in sexual activity again. It is recommend you wait one week after taking the medication you have been prescribed before resuming sexual activity.
The only way to fully prevent trichomoniasis is to abstain from any sexual activity.
If you are sexually active, using latex condoms during sexual intercourse will reduce your chances of contracting trichomoniasis and other STIs. However, because condoms do not cover everything, it is still possible to contract, or transmit, trichomoniasis when using a condom.
If you have trichomoniasis, you should inform your sexual partners of your infection and avoid sex until you have finished treatment. Your partner should also be tested and treated for trichomoniasis.