Trichomoniasis Symptoms

Only about one third of people with trichomoniasis, also known as “trich,” have any symptoms, and women are much more likely than men to develop symptoms. It is usually diagnosed when women seek treatment for changes in vaginal discharge or pain with urination or sex.

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What is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a microscopic parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. It is the most common non-viral STD in the United States, with millions of people infected at any given time. 

How is Trichomoniasis Prevented?

The trichomoniasis parasite is carried in sexual fluids. It is usually spread through heterosexual intercourse, although any genital-to-genital contact can spread the disease. Although less likely, it is possible to spread trichomoniasis through touching the genitals of an infected person and sharing sex toys. While the parasite can easily infect the penis and vagina, it is uncommon for it to be spread to the mouth or anus. 

Because people carrying trichomoniasis often have no symptoms, the disease can spread without either partner being aware. 

The best way to avoid infection is through a variety of safer sex practices. Condoms dental dams, reducing your number of partners, being in a mutually monogamous relationship, and even abstinence are all ways of decreasing your risk of exposure.

Trichomoniasis cannot be passed through casual contact or saliva.

If you were treated for trichomoniasis, make sure your partners are, too. If they are not, they can re-infect you.

If you are aware that your partner has trichomoniasis, avoid sexual contact with them until they have been treated and their symptoms are gone. You should be tested and treated for trichomoniasis, too.

What do Trichomoniasis Symptoms Look Like?

Most people who carry the parasite have no symptoms. Because of this, people may not know they have it and can unknowingly spread the disease to their sexual partners. 

Women are more likely than men to develop symptoms. Trichomoniasis causes inflammation of the vagina, known as vaginitis. This can cause changes in vaginal discharge, burning, itching, and pain during urination. If you have any of these symptoms or those listed below, seek medical care.

What Can I Expect When I Get Tested for Trichomoniasis?

Getting tested for trichomoniasis involves a simple urine test.

If your test shows that you are infected with trichomoniasis, you should be tested for other STDs, including HIV. Having trichomoniasis makes it easier to contract and spread HIV.

What Can I Expect From Trichomoniasis Treatment?

Treatment for trichomoniasis is one of the easiest of all STDs. Your provider will prescribe you a single dose of antibiotic, usually metronidazole. Your doctor may choose to treat you before you even get test results back, as a precautionary measure. You need to abstain from alcohol use for 24 hours after taking metronidazole.  

It is important that you avoid sexual contact until all of your symptoms resolve. Even if your symptoms are gone, some experts recommend waiting one week after treatment before engaging in sexual activity. To avoid getting re-infected, you should abstain from sexual activity until your partner is adequately treated, too.

If you are a woman, you should be retested three months after treatment to make sure the infection is gone and that you weren’t reinfected by a partner who wasn’t adequately treated.

It is important to notify your sexual partners if you suspect you have or if you have been diagnosed with trichomoniasis; your current partner(s) need treatment, too. This is important to prevent re-infection, especially given that they may not develop the same symptoms, if they show any symptoms at all. In some states, partners can be treated without being tested or seen by a provider.

How Will Trichomoniasis Affect My Pregnancy?

While trichomoniasis can be passed to a baby during birth, this is rare. However, pregnant women with trichomoniasis are more likely to deliver early or to have babies with low birth weights.

It is recommended that pregnant women with trichomoniasis symptoms and women with HIV be tested for trichomoniasis. It is not included in routine prenatal testing. If you are treated for trichomoniasis during your pregnancy and you are sexually active or HIV+, your doctor will want to retest you in three months to make sure the infection is gone.

Sources: ACOG.orgCDCCDC-2

Medically reviewed by Amy Cyr, MD
Reviewed on October 11, 2019

Trichomoniasis Symptoms in Men and Women

Trichomoniasis Symptoms in Women
  • Vaginal discharge (which may be frothy, have a fishy odor, and be white, yellow, green, or gray in color)
  • Painful urination or intercourse
  • Redness, burning, itching, or swelling of the vulva
Trichomoniasis Symptoms in Men
  • Discharge from the urethra
  • Painful urination
  • Burning after ejaculation
  • Irritation or itching inside the penis

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