Anyone who is sexually active needs to be concerned about sexually transmitted infections. There is a range of different STIs that can cause a variety of problems. Some can be treated with a quick course of antibiotics, while others are with you for life. You may be lucky to get away with no lasting effects, or there could be long-lasting consequences. Some show symptoms, while others may not cause any at all. It’s important to be aware of different infections, their symptoms, and how they’re diagnosed. If you’re knowledgeable, it encourages you to be safer and to get tested when you need to. Trichomonal vaginitis, or trichomoniasis, is a common STI that you should be aware of.
What Is Trichomonal Vaginitis?
Trichomonal Vaginitis is more commonly referred to as trichomoniasis or just trich. It is one of the most common STIs. It’s the most common curable sexually transmitted infection for young women in the US. Trichomoniasis is caused by a small parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. While the word “parasite” sounds horrifying, it isn’t large enough for you to see. When trichomoniasis displays symptoms, they usually occur in the first month. However, there could be as many as 50 percent of cases which do not exhibit symptoms. Some sources even say that up to 70 percent of people don’t experience symptoms. The symptoms are often similar to other STIs. This means that trichomoniasis can occasionally be hard to diagnose.
What Are the Symptoms of Trichomoniasis?
Like many other sexually transmitted infections, trichomoniasis presents differently in men and women. Women are more likely to experience symptoms compared to men. Many men remain asymptomatic. In women, the symptoms can include frothy discharge, which may be green-yellow in color and have a strong odor. Women can also experience pain when urinating and itching or irritation of the vagina. They might feel discomfort during sexual intercourse and, rarely, pain in the lower abdomen. For men, symptoms are usually milder. They might experience burning after urination or ejaculation. They can also get a mild discharge or irritation of the penis.
How Common Is Trichomoniasis?
In the US, it is estimated that about 3.7 million people have trichomoniasis. There are around 1.1 million new infections in the US each year. It is a common infection for younger women. However, older women are actually more likely to have been infected. The rate for women in 2.7 percent, while for men it is 1.4 percent. There are some groups that are at higher risk of infection. These include those engaging in high-risk sexual activities. However, because most people do not experience symptoms, many do not know that they have it. Estimates put new infections in North America at a rate of between 5 and 8 million each year. The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 160 million cases each year, worldwide.
Trichomoniasis is passed on through unprotected sex. It can sometimes be through using sex toys without a condom. The infection can affect the vagina and urethra in women and usually just the urethra in men. However, men may also be infected in the head of the penis or even the prostate gland. Trichomoniasis is probably not transmitted through oral or anal sex. Other contact such as kissing or hugging isn’t thought to pass it on. You should be safe to share plates or cutlery too. You also don’t need to worry about getting trichomoniasis from a toilet seat.
If you suspect you might have trichomoniasis, you should go to your GP or to a sexual health clinic to get tested. It can be a little difficult to diagnose trich because it can look like other STDs. When you get tested, a doctor will give you a physical exam, as well as sending a sample for a lab test. They will take a sample of vaginal or urethral fluid to be tested, which just involves a simple swab. This will confirm whether the parasite is present. You should get tested for trichomoniasis if you notice any unusual symptoms. It’s also important to get tested for other STIs as they can look the same. If you receive a positive diagnosis, you should let any recent sexual partners know. They should be tested or even treated right away as a precaution.
Trichomoniasis is usually treated with an oral antibiotic. Most of the time, an antibiotic called metronidazole is used. It can be given to both men and women and is safe for anyone who is or could be pregnant. The course of antibiotics usually lasts between five and seven days. However, you might start with a single dose of antibiotics first. It’s important to complete it, even if the symptoms go away before then. Anyone taking the treatment should also avoid having sex during that time. This is so that they don’t reinfect themselves or their partner. Make sure that anyone else you have recently had sex with also receives the treatment.
As well as ensuring that you take the full course of antibiotics, it’s important not to drink alcohol. Alcohol is best avoided when taking any antibiotics as they can make you vomit. This might mean that the antibiotic isn’t effective. You should also tell your doctor about any other medications you might be taking. They may need to take them into account when giving you a prescription.
Following Up on Treatment
Usually, you don’t need to go back to the doctor after taking antibiotics. However, there are some cases when you should revisit the doctor. These include when you have had unprotected sex before finishing the treatment. Or you may have come in contact with the infection again. You should also return if you vomit while taking the antibiotics, as they may not have had time to work. If you didn’t complete the treatment for any reason, you should go back to the doctor. Sometimes, the symptoms may not go away, and you need further treatment. Alternatively, you might receive a negative diagnosis. But then you may develop signs of the infection.
Consequences of Not Getting Treated
Trichomoniasis won’t go away on its own, so it’s important to get treated. It’s not just the obvious symptoms that can cause problems. There are some complications that can occur if you don’t receive treatment. These complications are rare and mainly affect pregnant women. If you are pregnant, it could cause the premature birth of your baby or a low birth weight. Another issue to keep in mind is that trichomoniasis could increase the risk of HIV infection. If a woman is already infected with HIV, it might also increase the risk of her passing it to a partner. The increased risk of HIV infection is due to inflammation of the genitals.
There are some rare complications that have been noted from trichomonal vaginitis. As well as being present in the urethra and vagina, it has also been found in the fallopian tubes and pelvis. Some of the less common complications include pneumonia, oral lesions, and bronchitis. In men, it may also cause urethritis or prostatitis, infections of the urethra and prostate.
Will Trichomoniasis Go Away without Treatment?
Trichomonal vaginitis can cure itself if left untreated. However, it isn’t that likely, and it could last for months or years without treatment. It could also lead to complications if it isn’t treated. The best thing to do if you suspect you have it is to get tested and treated.
Trichomonal Vaginitis and Pregnancy
As previously mentioned, trichomoniasis can cause some problems if you are pregnant. Evidence suggests that it could cause an early birth or a low birthweight. Another consequence could be that trichomoniasis is passed to the baby during pregnancy. However, this is not common, so it probably isn’t something for you to worry about. If you are pregnant or suspect you might be, it’s important to tell your doctor. It can affect the treatment they choose to give you. The same is true if you are breastfeeding. There isn’t any evidence to suggest that having trichomonal vaginitis will affect your fertility.
Can Trichomoniasis Increase the Risk of Cancer?
As many people know, some STIs such as HPV can increase the risk of cancers like cervical cancer. Research is still unclear about the role that trichomoniasis may play in cancer risks. Currently, it is unlikely that there is an increased risk on its own. However, it may be linked to co-infection of strains of HPV that increase the risk of cervical cancer. For men, asymptomatic prostatitis and urethritis can be caused by Trichomonas vaginalis. This could cause chronic inflammation of the prostate. This may increase the risk of prostate cancer. However, the evidence on these issues is not yet entirely clear.
The Emotional Effect of a Diagnosis
When talking about STDs, people often neglect to mention the emotional side of it. Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection can cause all sorts of feelings. You might feel angry, upset or ashamed. You may be wondering how long you have had the infection and who could have given it to you. Sometimes it might cause you to start thinking about whether a partner has been unfaithful to you. If you are struggling with a diagnosis, it’s a good idea to speak to someone about your feelings. You can talk to someone at the clinic you visit if you find it hard to talk to your friends or partner. If you have a therapist, you might like to discuss the issue with them too.
Telling Partners About Trichomoniasis
If you are diagnosed with trichomoniasis, it’s important to tell anyone you have recently had sexual contact with. This can be uncomfortable, as it may mean talking to people you no longer want to talk to. However, letting them know they may be infected is essential. You don’t have to speak to them directly if you don’t want to. Some clinics may provide you with a slip you can fill in to give to them or send to them. They may also offer to make contact with people for you so that you don’t have to do it yourself.
How to Avoid Getting Trichomoniasis
Like any other sexually transmitted infection, trichomoniasis is best avoided with safe sex. The first thing that you should do is ensure you use condoms when having sex. It’s important not only to use them but to ensure you use them correctly. Make sure you know the correct practice for storing condoms, as well as using them. It’s also a good idea to limit the number of sexual partners you have. However, if you do sleep with multiple people, make sure you always practice safe sex. Try not to go back and forth between partners or stick to having sex with one partner who you know is not infected.
Be careful when deciding to have sex with someone without condoms. If you decide to stop using them with a long-term partner, it’s a good idea for you both to be tested for STIs. If you do think you might be infected, avoid having sex until you have seen a doctor. It’s just as important to avoid giving trichomoniasis to someone else.
Even when you use condoms, there is a chance of being infected or infecting your partner. The only way to be entirely sure that you can’t get it is to avoid having sex. However, if you do choose to have sex, you need to do so responsibly and safely. It’s a good idea to talk to sexual partners about sexual health and how to protect each other. It’s healthy to have an open discussion about STIs. You should also talk about preventing pregnancy. Even when having casual sex, you can still ensure that you are both on the same page about protection.
Trichomonal vaginitis is not a pleasant infection, especially when it causes symptoms. Even when it is asymptomatic, it could cause problems. If you suspect you might have it, it’s important to see a doctor to receive a diagnosis and treatment.