Trichomoniasis, also known as “trich,” is a very common STD, caused by a single-celled parasite (trichomona) that is spread through sexual activity. While having any type of STD can be scary, trichomoniasis is easily treated and cured with a single dose of antibiotics.
Learn more about trichomoniasis symptoms and how they can be treated.
What is Trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis symptoms are caused by the single-celled protozoan organism Trichomonas vaginalis. This parasite is one of the most common STDs in the United States, with millions of people infected at any given time.
While there is stigma around STDs in America, the commonality of trichomoniasis (along with many other STDs) should illustrate just how normal these diseases are. There should be no shame in having an STD, so long as you are responsible, getting regularly tested and treated when necessary.
How is Trichomoniasis Prevented?
The trichomoniasis parasite is carried in sexual fluids. This includes semen (cum), pre-ejaculate (pre-cum), and vaginal fluids. As such, transmission of the trichomona parasite can be prevented through standard, safe sex practices. These include condoms and dental dams, which act as a barrier between you and the infected body parts.
When looking to avoid trichomoniasis, you should also be cautious of sharing sex toys. Because these are exposed to sexual fluids, they, too, can spread the infection from person-to-person or between areas of the body. While the parasite can easily infect the penis and vagina, it is uncommon for it to be spread to the mouth or anus.
While safe sex practices can help prevent infection, the only surefire way of preventing STDs is abstinence. This can be long-term, such as those who wait to have sex until entering a long-term relationship, or it can be short-term, if you’re only waiting until you and your sexual partner can get tested. Either way, abstinence can play a role in a healthy and responsible sex life.
While trichomoniasis is easily spread, it cannot be passed through casual contact. You cannot contract trich through shared food & drink, holding hands, kissing, hugging, coughing, or sneezing.
Since many people with the parasite do not show any trichomoniasis symptoms, safe sex and regular testing are the best ways of preventing infection for yourself and others.
What Do Trichomoniasis Symptoms Look Like?
Many people who carry the parasite show no outward trichomoniasis symptoms. On average, 30% of all people show no symptoms. Some studies show as many as 80% of women being asymptomatic.
Because many people do not show signs of infection, regular testing is important to catching these infections. Without regular testing, most people do not become aware of their infection until some of the more alarming trichomoniasis symptoms develop. The most are irritation and discharge of the vagina or penis. For women, this is known as vaginitis. This can result in burning and itching, including pain during urination.
While trichomoniasis symptoms are similar for both men and women, the most common symptoms for each sex are listed below.
Trichomoniasis Symptoms in Women
- Vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor
- Painful urination
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Vaginal spotting or bleeding
- Burning or itching around the vagina
- Redness or swelling of the vagina
Trichomoniasis Symptoms in Men
- Discharge from the urethra
- Painful urination
- Burning after ejaculation
- Frequent urge to urinate
Trichomoniasis symptoms can be startling but they are easily treated and cured. If you are showing signs of this infection or you have had sex with someone who is, getting tested is the first step to recovery.
What Can I Expect When I Get Tested?
While trichomoniasis symptoms may indicate an infection, the only sure way to know that you have trich is through testing. Trichomoniasis symptoms can be similar to those from other sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, so you doctor will need to test you in order be certain of which STD you have. Because some STDs are more receptive to specific antibiotics, testing will provide your doctor with important knowledge about which prescription is right for you.
While it is understandable that getting tested for a sexually transmitted disease can be anxiety provoking, try to relax. Trichomoniasis is nothing to be overly concerned about, and the test is simple. Testing for trich involves peeing in a plastic cup, which will then be sent to a lab, where they will look for signs of the parasite.
Results generally process in two to three days; however, it can take longer depending on how busy the laboratory is. Your personal doctor might prescribe treatment for you before then. That is at the discretion of the physician and what they feel is right for you in your individual circumstances.
What Can I Expect from Trichomoniasis Treatment?
Treatment for trichomoniasis symptoms is one of the easiest of all STDs. Your doctor will prescribe you a single dose of antibiotic, either metronidazole or tinidazole. This means you only need to take one pill and you will begin to see your symptoms clear up over the course of a week.
After taking your antibiotic, you will want to refrain from sexual activity for at least one week, even if trichomoniasis symptoms are no longer present. Just because the symptoms have cleared does not mean the parasite is gone, so you will want to wait a reasonable amount of time, to make sure the drug has had time to do its job.
While you are getting treatment, you will also want to encourage your partner(s) to get treated as well. While it can be embarrassing to talk to your partners about sexually transmitted infections, it is important for their health (and public health) that you be honest with your partner. While they may have a negative reaction to the news, they will be grateful for your honesty and the respect you have shown for their well-being.
How Will Trichomoniasis Affect My Pregnancy?
Having trich during pregnancy can cause challenges if left untreated. Trichomoniasis can cause a preterm birth, preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM), and a low birth weight. While trich can be passed to your baby during birth, this is very rare and can be easily treated with an antibiotic.
If you are displaying trichomoniasis symptoms during pregnancy, get tested, as this will not be tested for during routine prenatal care.