- Trichomoniasis (also called trich) is a common, curable STI caused by a parasitic protozoa called Trichomonas vaginalis.
- Trichomoniasis may cause symptoms in women, but most men do not have symptoms.
- You may need to talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not you should be tested. If you have trichomoniasis, you are more likely to contract HIV if you are exposed—so getting tested and treated is important.
How does someone get trich?
Trich is spread through sexual contact with an infected partner: this includes penis-to-vagina intercourse or genital-to-genital contact.
What are the symptoms of trich?
Only about 30 percent of people that have trichomoniasis develop any symptoms. When trich does cause symptoms, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation.
Symptoms of trichomoniasis are more common in women. These include:
- Vaginal discharge that is green, yellow or grey
- A bad vaginal smell
- Itching in or around the vagina
- Pain during sex
- Pain when urinating
Most men don’t have symptoms of trich but when they do, symptoms can include itching or irritation inside the penis, a discharge or pain when urinating.
Some people with symptoms of trich get them within 5 to 28 days after being infected, but others do not develop symptoms until much later. Symptoms can come and go, and without treatment, the infection can last for months or even years.
How can trich be prevented?
Using condoms correctly every time during sexual intercourse will help reduce the risk of getting or spreading trichomoniasis.
How is trich diagnosed?
It isn’t possible to diagnose trichomoniasis based on symptoms alone (remember–many people don’t have symptoms). A healthcare provider must perform a test to diagnose trich.
The parasite is harder to detect in men than in women. General tips for women to help their provider find out what they may have include:
- Schedule the exam when you’re not having your monthly period.
- If you have sex less than 24 hours before the exam, use condoms.
Healthcare providers often diagnose trich in women by putting a sample of vaginal fluid or discharge on a slide (called a “wet preparation”) and viewing the parasite under a microscope. This test is not always reliable.
A culture test is another method to detect trich, and can be used with males and females. Culture tests use urine, or a swab from the vagina or urethra, and make the trich parasite easier to find by “growing” it in a lab.
Recently, tests that are much more accurate have become available, including DNA tests that are reliable in men and women. These tests can be done with vaginal swabs or urine.
Women may have a trich test done along with a pelvic exam. One of these tests even allows healthcare providers to check for trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea using the same sample.
How is trich treated?
Trichomoniasis is curable with antibiotics, typically metronidazole (Flagyl) or Tinidazole (Tindamax). If you are being treated for trichomoniosis, keep these facts in mind:
- Use all the medicine prescribed, even if your symptoms go away
- Sex partners must also be treated, or you will get trich again
- Do not have sex until all partners have finished the medication
What if I have trich while pregnant?
Trichomoniasis can cause babies to be born early or with low birth weight. If you think you may be pregnant—or are planning to become pregnant—be sure to talk to your healthcare provider and ask about testing for trich.
Are there other complications with trich?
Trich can cause genital inflammation that makes it easier to become infected with HIV or to pass HIV on to a sex partner.
LISTEN AND LEARN:
A Four-Part Series on Trichomoniasis
With roughly two million cases in the U.S., trichomoniasis (“trich”) is the most common STI you’ve never heard of. Learn more about this common STI in our four-part expert series. You can listen below or check out the entire series on YouTube.
The Art and Science of Diagnosing Trichomoniasis
Most cases of trich don’t have obvious symptoms but undetected trich can make it more like to contract or transmit other STIs (like HIV) and the infection is linked to pre-term delivery and low-birth weight babies. Today we chat with Dr. Bobbie Van Der Pol, a professor in the schools of medicine and public health with the University of Alabama, Birmingham where she’s a scientist with the UAB Center for Women’s Reproductive Health. Dr. Van Der Pol is also president of the International Society for STD Research
Racism, Sexism and Public Health
We’re chatting in this episode with Denise Linton, DNS, RN, FNP, FAANP about the systemic reasons behind the high rates of trich and other STIs in under-served populations and what we can do to promote health equity among those most in need.
Trich: Treating the Infection, Understanding the Person
We continue our series on trich infections with a detailed focus on treatment options. With estimates of more than two million cases annually in the U.S., trich is often without obvious symptoms but, undetected and untreated, can lead to health issues including a greater risk of contracting or transmitting HIV and pregnancy complications including early delivery and low-birth weight babies. Learn more about treatment options for trich in our conversation with Dr. Patty Kissinger, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor with the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs.
The fourth installment in our series on trich infections focuses on the psychosocial impact of trich. In our conversation with Ina Park, MD, we explore common questions that emerge following a trich diagnosis including how long may one have had the infection before it was detected, what partners need to know in terms of testing and treatment, and how patients and health professionals alike can become empowered to discuss sexual health including testing for STIs like trich. Dr. Park is Associate Professor, Family Community Medicine, University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine.