Trichomoniasis

Reviewed by Ruthann Cunningham, MD, July 26, 2017

What is trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis (trick-o-mon-I-AS-is), also known as "trich" (trick), is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 3.7 million new cases of trichomoniasis in the United States each year. In fact, it's one of the most common and easiest to cure STDs among adults who are sexually active.

What are the symptoms of trichomoniasis?

About 70% of infected people do not show any signs or symptoms. When trichomoniasis does cause symptoms, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation. Some people with symptoms have them 5 to 28 days after being infected. Others do not develop symptoms until much later. Symptoms can come and go.

Men with trichomoniasis may feel itching or irritation inside the penis, burning after urination or ejaculation, or some discharge from the penis.

Women with trichomoniasis may notice itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals, discomfort with urination, or a thin discharge with an unusual smell that can be clear, white, yellowish, or greenish.

How do I get trichomoniasis?

The parasite is passed from an infected person to an uninfected person during sex. The parasite is usually transmitted from a penis to a vagina, or from a vagina to a penis, but it can also be passed from a vagina to another vagina. It is not common for the parasite to infect other body parts, like the hands, mouth, or anus. It is unclear why some people with the infection present with symptoms while others do not, but it likely depends on factors including the person's age and overall health. Infected people who do not express symptoms can still pass the infection to others.

How do I get tested for trichomoniasis?

For both men and women, the test for trichomoniasis involves a simple urine test, similar to the tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Is there a cure for trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis can be cured with a single dose of prescription antibiotic medication (either metronidazole or tinidazole), pills which can be taken by mouth. It is okay for pregnant women to take this medication. Some people who drink alcohol within 24 hours after taking this kind of antibiotic can have uncomfortable side effects.

People who have been treated for trichomoniasis can get it again. About 1 in 5 people get infected again within 3 months after treatment. To avoid getting reinfected, make sure that all of your sex partners get treated, too, and wait to have sex again until all of your symptoms go away (about a week). Get checked again if your symptoms come back.

What if I don't get treated for trichomoniasis?

If you have trichomoniasis, you are at an increased risk for getting or spreading other sexually transmitted infections. For example, trichomoniasis can cause genital inflammation that makes it easier to get infected by the HIV virus and to pass the HIV virus onto another partner.

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