Trichomoniasis is caused by a protozoan (the smallest, single-celled members of the animal kingdom). Trichomonas vaginalis is almost always passed through sexual contact. Trichomoniasis is primarily an infection
of women's vaginal and urinary tracts. A woman is most susceptible to infection just after having completed her menstrual period. Men may carry the organism unknowingly, since infection in men may cause mild or no symptoms. Men may also experience urethral discharge or persistent urethritis. Trichomoniasis is associated with HIV transmission and may be associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Causes & symptoms
Because trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease, it occurs more often in individuals who have multiple sexual partners. The protozoan is passed to an individual by contact within the body fluids of an infected sexual partner. It often occurs simultaneously with other sexually transmitted diseases, especially gonorrhea.
In women, the symptoms of trichomoniasis include an unpleasant vaginal odor, and a heavy, frothy, yellow discharge from the vagina. The genital area (vulva) is often very itchy, and there is frequently pain with urination or with sexual intercourse. The labia (lips) of the vagina, the vagina itself, and the cervix (the narrowed, lowest segment of the uterus that extends into the upper part of the vagina) will be bright red and irritated. Women may also experience lower abdominal discomfort.
In men, there may be no symptoms at all. Some men notice a small amount of yellowish discharge from the penis, usually first thing in the morning. There may be some mild discomfort while urinating, testicular pain or tenderness, or lower abdominal pain. Some men infected with trichomoniasis experience persistent urethritis.
The use of antibiotics is a contributing factor to recurrent trichomoniasis in some women because antibiotics affect the balance of bacteria in the vagina, allowing such organisms as T. vaginalis to multiply more rapidly.
Kathy S. Stolley, Rebecca J. Frey PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,