What is Trichomoniasis and What are the Symptoms?
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. This infection is more common in women than men. It can cause vaginal or penile discharge, genital discomfort, and pain with sex or urination. While Trichomoniasis is generally not serious, it is crucial to get tested and treated because it commonly occurs as a co-infection with other STIs.
What is Trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It is caused by and spreads via sexual intercourse and can be passed between a penis and vagina and also via vagina to vagina contact. Trichomoniasis, commonly called “trich,” is caused by a one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis.
What are the Symptoms?
70% of individuals infected with Trichomoniasis will have no symptoms, but those who do are likely to experience:
- Green, foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Genital burning or itching
- Pain or bleeding with sex
- Pain with urination
- Penile discharge
- Penile irritation
- Pain with urination
Even if there are no symptoms, a person with Trichomoniasis can spread the infection to their sexual partners. In fact, men who are infected are more likely to have no symptoms and spread the infection to their partners through direct genital contact.
How do I get a Diagnosis?
Trichomoniasis is easily diagnosed by taking a sample of genital secretions or urine and examining it under a microscope. If the parasites are visualized, the infection is diagnosed, and you can begin treatment. If you are diagnosed with Trichomoniasis, your doctor may recommend getting tested for other STIs since co-infection is quite common.
It is important for people who are sexually active to get STI testing every year. This is because many STIs are completely asymptomatic but can still cause damage. To prevent the long-term effects of STIs, get a yearly preventative STI screen to check for common STIs and HIV if you are at risk. If you are not in an HIV risk group, it is still a good idea to get tested at least once in your lifetime since HIV is now highly treatable if detected early.
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What are the options for Treatment and Prevention?
Treating Trichomoniasis is simple and consists of taking antibiotics such as Flagyl or Tindamax. Flagyl may cause dizziness, headache, and upset stomach, and Tindamax has similar side effects as well. Trichomoniasis will not resolve on its own, so treatment is essential for anyone who is infected. Sexual partners should be treated as well, even if they do not have any symptoms. Everyone must take the entire course of treatment, even if they begin feeling better before the medication is finished.
Treatment for Trichomoniasis generally costs between $18 to $31 for Tindamax and $3 to $10 for Flagyl if you are paying out of pocket, but the antibiotics used to treat Trichomoniasis are usually covered by insurance.
To prevent Trichomoniasis, the following steps can be taken:
- Always use latex condoms when having sex. Latex condoms prevent Trichomoniasis, but they can also protect against unintended pregnancy, HIV, and other STIs.
- Do not use vaginal douches or scented vaginal soaps. These can interfere with vaginal bacteria and pH balance and make you more at risk of infection.
- Discuss your sexual history and STI status with sexual partners. It’s important for everyone to be on the same page. Open communication also ensures that people can provide adequate and necessary sexual consent.
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What are the Long-Term Effects of having Trichomoniasis?
Because Trichomoniasis can be asymptomatic, some people do not seek treatment and can be at risk of complications. If left untreated, Trichomoniasis can have long term effects, including:
- Increased risk of STIs and HIV
- Preterm delivery (if pregnant)
- Passing Trichomoniasis to your infant in the birth canal (if pregnant)
Another important consideration is that treatment does not prevent future Trichomoniasis. Up to 20% of people will be reinfected within three months of treatment.
Additionally, since Trichomoniasis commonly occurs at the same time as gonorrhea or chlamydia, having these infections left untreated leads to a risk of complications. These include fertility problems, pelvic scarring, and a higher risk of abnormally located pregnancy (ectopic pregnancy), in which the fetus implants outside of the uterus.
Trichomoniasis Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Trichomoniasis and other STIs are prevalent reasons for visiting a healthcare provider. Because many people are concerned about their risk of STIs, we have compiled a list of common STI questions to provide you with high-quality information about these serious but treatable conditions.
Is Trichomoniasis the same thing as bacterial vaginosis?
While Trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis have similar symptoms, they are not the same. Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal infection in women aged 15 to 44. It is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. Risk factors for bacterial vaginosis include pregnancy, using douches, or having new or multiple sex partners. Unlike Trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis is not considered an STI, meaning that while sexual activity can increase your risk for bacterial vaginosis, the condition is not spread via sexual contact itself.
Is Trichomoniasis the same thing as a yeast infection?
Like bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections may present somewhat similarly to Trichomoniasis. Yeast infections cause white vaginal discharge and itching. They are not sexually transmitted and occur when the pH and bacteria in your vagina are not in balance. A common catalyst for developing a yeast infection is starting a course of antibiotics. Yeast infections are easily treated with gel, suppository, or cream.
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How can I prevent yeast infections?
Yeast infections can be prevented. To avoid developing a yeast infection:
- Wear cotton underwear to avoid moisture and to keep you dry
- Avoid clingy clothing, which can also increase moisture and heighten your risk of developing a yeast infection
- Do not use douches or scented vaginal soaps
- If you have recurrent yeast infections or are about to go on antibiotics, request that your doctor give the treatment in advance to begin treatment right away.
What are some of the other most common STIs?
The most common STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, Hepatitis B, HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and Trichomoniasis. Many of these occur as common co-infections, so your doctor may automatically treat you for other STIs if you are diagnosed with one. It is essential to be aware that many STIs will have absolutely no symptoms, especially for men, which means that these infections can quickly spread within a community.
How can I prevent STIs?
The only foolproof way to be 100% sure that you will not contract an STI is to avoid sexual intercourse. However, for most individuals, this is not a feasible solution. If you are sexually active:
- Use condoms for every sexual encounter, even if penetrative sex does not occur. Change the condom if you switch from vaginal to oral or anal sex, and vice versa.
- Get the appropriate vaccines. The HPV vaccine can prevent you from developing cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
- Be open with your sexual partners and ensure that you know the risks associated with every encounter.
- Get tested for STIs and treat any STIs you are diagnosed with right away. If you develop an STI, let your sexual contacts know so that they can get tested and treated as well.
Trichomoniasis is a very common STI that can affect any sexually active individual. It is easy to diagnose and treat, but because many people will have co-infections with other STIs, Trichomoniasis should be taken seriously and treated appropriately, along with any co-infections.
If you are looking for access to low-cost STI testing and treatment, Mira may be a good option for you. With Mira, you get access to lab tests, discounted prescriptions, urgent care, and discounts on preventative services such as gym memberships for just $40 per month. Try Mira today!
Dvora is a recent medical graduate and current MPH student who is passionate about women’s health and health equity. She hopes to specialize in Obstetrics and Gynecology and is excited to join the Mira team in empowering people through healthcare. In her spare time she enjoys exercise, reading and spending time with her family and her dog, Dash.