A Fact Sheet About Trichomoniasis

Most of those with trichomoniasis don’t show any symptoms.

What Specifically Is Trichomoniasis Anyway?

Trichomoniasis is also known just as ‘trich’, but whatever you refer to it as, it’s a sexually transmitted disease. It’s also a very frequently diagnosed STD. The source of it is an infection that has a protozoan parasite known as trichomonas vaginalis. Even though symptoms of this disease can vary, the majority of those who have the parasite do not know that they are infected.

How Common Is This STD?

Trichomoniasis is the most frequently diagnosed among curable STDs. Inside the United States, estimates suggest that 3.7 million people have this infection. Having said that, less than a third of them develop any of the known symptoms. Infection is more prevalent in women as compared to men. Also, older women are more likely to have a trichomoniasis infection than younger women.

How Is It That People Even Get Trichomoniasis in the First Place?

This parasite is one that can pass from an infected host to someone that is not infected during the act of sexual intercourse. For women, the parts of their body that are infected most frequently are the lower genital tract, including the urethra, cervix, vagina, and vulva. For men, the urethra (or interior of the penis) is the most common area of infection. During sexual intercourse, the parasite can spread from a vagina to a penis, or vice-versa. It can even spread from one vagina to another. It’s uncommon for this parasite to wind up infecting other body parts, such as the anus, mouth, or hands. It’s not clear why some individuals who have this infection wind up with symptoms when others don’t. It likely depends on numerous factors, possibly including a person’s total health and specific age. Those who are infected but show no symptoms can still pass this infection onto others.

What Symptoms and Signs Are Associated with Trichomoniasis?

More than two-thirds of those infected don’t show either symptoms or signs. When symptoms do arise from trichomoniasis, they can range anywhere from mild levels of irritation up to severe inflammation. Some of those who do have symptoms first get them anywhere from 5 days up to 4 weeks after the initial infection.

Others don’t wind up developing symptoms until a lot later. Symptoms, in any case, may come and go periodically.

Men who have trichomoniasis might notice the following:

  • Irritation or itching inside their penis
  • A burning sensation following ejaculation or urination
  • Penile discharge.

 

Women who have trichomoniasis might notice the following:

  • Genital soreness, redness, burning or itching
  • Discomfort with urination
  • Changes in vaginal discharge, increased volume or thin discharge, that may be yellowish, white, clear, or greenish with a strange fishy smell.

Having this STD can make sexual intercourse unpleasant. If you don’t get treatment, then this infection might last months to years.

What Are the Potential Complications?

Trichomoniasis makes it easier to spread or become infected with other STDs. For instance, the genital inflammation that can result from trichomoniasis makes it easier for you to contract HIV or pass on the virus to others.

How Does Trichomoniasis Impact Pregnant Women and Babies?

An expecting woman with this STD is someone with a higher likelihood of preterm delivery, where she has her child born too soon. Also, babies delivered from infected mothers are more likely to have a low birth weight of under 5.5 lbs.

How Do Healthcare Professionals Diagnose Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis can’t be diagnosed just based on symptoms. Healthcare professionals can examine men and women alike and can order the lab tests used in diagnosing this disease.

How Is Trichomoniasis Treated?

At the time of writing, two different medications are used for treating trichomoniasis – tinidazole and metronidazole (both pills that are ingested by mouth). Pregnant women can usually take this medication safely. Individuals are advised to avoid drinking alcohol in the first 24 hours after taking either drug.

Anyone who gets treated for this STD can wind up getting it again. Roughly 20 percent of all trichomoniasis patients wind up having a new infection within 3 months following their initial treatment. To avoid reinfection, you need to be sure that any sex partners you have also get treated. After your partner(s) and you are treated, wait a week to 10 days before resuming sexual intercourse. If either of you has symptoms that return, both of you should get checked out again.

Is Trichomoniasis Preventable?

The only surefire way of avoiding all STDs is by avoiding oral, anal, or vaginal sex. If you are currently sexually active, then you can take certain steps to minimize your odds of contracting trichomoniasis:

  • Stay within a long-running, sexually monogamous relationship where both of you are tested for STDs and have negative results.
  • Always use latex condoms whenever you have sexual intercourse. Also, use them properly. This will reduce your odds of contracting trichomoniasis, but condoms don’t cover all potential areas of infection.
  • Talk to your new partners about the risk of possible STDs before having intercourse with them the first time. This lets you make educated decisions about your comfort level in terms of risk with your sex life. Consult a healthcare professional if you or anyone you know has any questions about STDs such as trichomoniasis.

Content source: Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention