What Is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is a condition caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. This common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is also known as “trich.”

Trichomoniasis is curable. However, you can become reinfected if you have sex with an infected person. Most people do not realize they are infected with the parasite, so they do not get treated for it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trichomoniasis affects nearly 3.7 million people in the United States (CDC). Only around 30 percent of those individuals are symptomatic. Even without symptoms, you can spread the infection.

Trich is an STI that can be transmitted between a penis and vagina, or between vagina and vagina. The parasite does not generally infect the mouth or anus.

What Are the Symptoms of Trichomonas Infection?

Most people with trichomoniasis do not have any symptoms. However, some people do. Symptoms of Trichomonas infection can include:

  • itching inside the penis
  • burning after urination or ejaculation
  • penile discharge
  • itching or redness of the vaginal area
  • uncomfortable urination (females)
  • vaginal discharge
  • vaginal odor

Symptoms usually appear five to 28 days after being infected. However, they can develop at any time (CDC). It is not unusual for symptoms to be sporadic.

Diagnosing Trichomoniasis

Diagnosing trichomoniasis is easier in women than in men.

Diagnosing Women

This infection can be diagnosed during a pelvic exam. It may cause red patches on the vaginal wall or cervix.

A swab may also be used to collect a sample of vaginal fluids. This can be examined under a microscope to look for the parasite.

Diagnosing Men

It is very difficult to diagnose this STI in men. Therefore, men are usually presumptively treated if their sexual partner is diagnosed with this infection.

Men may also be treated for this infection if they have persistent itching or burning in the urethra and treatment for other STIs has been ineffective.

How Is a Trichomonas Infection Treated?

You will need to take a prescription medication, usually metronidazole, to get rid of the infection. These pills are taken orally. Trichomoniasis may also be treated with tinidazole.

You should not drink alcohol while taking these drugs, or for up to 72 hours afterward (Zieve). Alcohol mixed with these medications can cause nausea and vomiting.

Sexual intercourse should also be avoided until you are done with treatment. Treatment does not protect you from future infections. It is possible to become infected again. It is important for both sexual partners to be treated before resuming intercourse.

Long-Term Complications

If you are pregnant and have trichomoniasis, your baby may be born prematurely. Babies born to women who are infected tend to have a low birth weight (CDC). It is safe for you to treat this infection while you are pregnant. If you have any concerns, talk with your doctor about your treatment.

Without treatment, trichomoniasis can cause changes in your cervical tissue. These changes may show up on a Pap smear. If your doctor finds abnormal cells, you will be treated and then have a repeat Pap smear.

Prevention: How to Lower Your Risk of Infection

Latex condoms can reduce the risk of spreading this infection. However, condoms are not foolproof. The parasite can still be transmitted from surrounding areas.

It is important to talk to your partner about your sexual history and get tested before starting a sexual relationship.