What is trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) also called sexually transmitted diseases (STD) caused by a parasite. It is one of the most common STIs in the world.
How is trichomoniasis spread?
Trichomoniasis is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can be spread with or without symptoms. Also, trichomoniasis can be passed by engaging in same-sex. Trichomoniasis is more common in women than men. It affects more than 2 million women ages 14 to 49 in the United States.
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What are the symptoms of trichomoniasis?
Most infected women experience no signs or symptoms. If you do get signs or symptoms, they might appear five to 28 days after exposure to the infection and may include:
- Irritation and itching in the genital area
- Thin or frothy discharge with an unusual foul odor that appears clear, white, yellowish, or greenish
- Discomfort during sex
- Pain when urinating
- Pain in the lower abdomen
If you think you may have trichomoniasis, you and your sex partner(s) need to see a doctor immediately for treatment.
Is there a test to diagnose trichomoniasis?
If you have trichomoniasis, you need to be tested for other STIs. To check whether you have trichomoniasis, your doctor may:
- Perform a pelvic exam
- Use a cotton swab to take a fluid sample from your vagina to examine it for the parasite under a microscope
- Do a lab test, such as a DNA test or a fluid culture. A culture tests uses urine or a swab from your vagina. The parasite then grows in a lab. It takes up to a week for the parasite to grow enough to be seen.
Note that a Pap test is not used to detect trichomoniasis.
What is the treatment to cure trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis is easily cured with one of two antibiotics which are usually a pill you swallow in a single dose:
If you are treated for trichomoniasis, your sex partner needs to be treated too. Don’t engage in sex until you and your sex partner(s) finish taking all of the antibiotics and have no symptoms.
What can happen if trichomoniasis is left untreated?
- Most people with trichomoniasis show no symptoms and may never know they have it. Even without symptoms, it can be passed to others.
- If you have trichomoniasis, you are at higher risk of getting HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) if you are exposed to HIV.
- If you are HIV-positive, having trichomoniasis also raises your risk of passing HIV to your sex partner.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women with HIV get screened for trichomoniasis once yearly.
Does trichomoniasis affect pregnancy?
Pregnant women with trichomoniasis are at higher risk of premature birth or a low-birth-weight baby (less than 5 1/2 pounds). Premature birth and a low birth weight increases the risk of health and developmental problems at birth and later in life.
The antibiotic metronidazole can be used to treat trichomoniasis during any stage of pregnancy. Discuss with your doctor before taking any medicine during pregnancy.
Can I take medicine to treat trichomoniasis if I am breastfeeding?
You can take the antibiotic metronidazole if you are breastfeeding. Your doctor may suggest waiting 12 to 24 hours after taking metronidazole before breastfeeding. You must avoid taking tinidazole if you are breastfeeding.
How can I prevent from getting trichomoniasis?
The best way to prevent trichomoniasis or any STI is to avoid vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
If you do have sex, lower your risk of getting an STI with the following steps:
- Use condoms: Condoms are the best way to prevent STIs when you engage sex. Other methods like using diaphragms, shots, birth control pills, or implants will not protect you from STIs.
- Get tested. Be certain that you and your partner are tested for STIs. Talk to each other about the test results before you engage in sex.
- Be monogamous. Having sex with just one partner can lower your risk for STIs. After being tested for STIs, remain faithful to each other.
- Avoid douching. Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection, thereby making you vulnerable to getting STIs.
- Do not abuse alcohol or drugs. This can increase risky behavior and may put you at risk of sexual assault or misconduct.