- Trichomoniasis is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a parasite.
- The most reliable way to avoid transmission of STDs is to abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner known to be uninfected.
What is trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis (or “trich”) is a very common STD that is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Although symptoms of the disease vary, most women and men who have the parasite cannot tell they are infected.
Trichomoniasis can cause genital (sex organ) inflammation and increase the risk of getting infected with other STDs, including HIV.
How common is trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis is considered the most common, curable STD. An estimated 3.7 million people have the infection in the United States, but only about 30 out of 100 infected people develop any symptoms of trichomoniasis. Infection is more common in women than in men, and older women are more likely than younger women to have been infected.
How is trichomoniasis spread?
The parasite is passed from an infected person to an uninfected person during sex. In women, the most commonly infected part of the body is the lower genital tract, including the vagina, vulva (exterior of the vagina), or urethra (urine canal). In men, the most commonly infected body part is the inside of the penis (urethra, or urine canal). During sex, the parasite is usually transmitted through vaginal sex. 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.
What are the symptoms of trichomoniasis?
Most people (about 70 out of every 100 people) who have trichomoniasis do not have any signs or symptoms. Infected people without symptoms can still pass the infection on to others.
When trichomoniasis does cause symptoms, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation. Some people who develop symptoms get them within five to 28 days after being infected, but 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 an unusual smell with a thin discharge that can be clear, white, yellowish, or greenish.
Having trichomoniasis can make it feel unpleasant to have sex. Without treatment, the infection can last for months or even years.
What are the risk factors for trichomoniasis?
A risk factor is the chance that something will harm or otherwise affect a person’s health.
Risk factors for trichomoniasis include:
- Having sex without a condom. However, condoms do not cover the entire genital region, and it is possible to get or spread this infection even when using a condom.
- Having a history of STDs.
- Having a past trichomoniasis infection.
- Having multiple sex partners.
Are there tests for trichomoniasis?
It is not possible to diagnose trichomoniasis based on symptoms alone. For both men and women, your healthcare provider must do a physical exam and a laboratory test, looking at a sample of vaginal fluid for women and urine for men, to diagnose trichomoniasis.
How is trichomoniasis treated?
Trichomoniasis can be cured with a single dose of prescription antibiotic medication (either metronidazole or tinidazole) 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 20 out of 100 people get infected again within three months after treatment. Get checked again if your symptoms come back.
I was treated for trichomoniasis. When can I have sex again?
Wait to have sex again until all of your symptoms go away (after about a week). To avoid getting reinfected, make sure that all of your sex partners get treated too.
Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. If you have trichomoniasis, you should tell your sex partner(s) so they can get tested and treated, if necessary.
What happens if I don't get treated?
If you don’t get treated for trichomoniasis and you have other STDs, it can increase the risk of spreading other STDs, including HIV, especially in women. Pregnant women with untreated trichomoniasis can experience pregnancy complications.
What are the implications of trichomoniasis on pregnancy?
Pregnant women with trichomoniasis are more likely to have their baby too early (delivered preterm, or before 37 weeks). Also, babies born to infected mothers are more likely to be of low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds).
Did you know? (Learn more about male condoms)
Content last reviewed on April 5, 2019