December 8, 2022
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What is trichomoniasis?

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Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis (CDC). Trichomoniasis often does not cause symptoms, meaning many people do not know they have it. Trichomoniasis can be diagnosed with a simple STI test, and easily treated with antibiotics. 

What is trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is a parasite that can infect the urethra, vulva, vagina, or cervix. It usually does not infect other body parts, like the mouth or anus (Planned Parenthood). 

Symptoms of trichomoniasis

Approximately 70% of people with trichomoniasis have no noticeable symptoms (CDC). However, even without any symptoms, the infection can spread to others. Known symptoms of trichomoniasis in women are pale green or yellow vaginal discharge that may be foamy, abnormal vaginal odour, and swelling and redness of the labia. Pain during urination or sex may also occur (CDC). Pregnant women with trichomoniasis may experience premature birth or other complications, such as premature rupture of membranes. Most men with trichomoniasis do not experience any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they usually include a burning sensation when urinating or discharge and redness of the penis (Mayo Clinic).

How is trichomoniasis spread?

Trichomoniasis is primarily spread through sexual contact. In rare cases, it may be possible to be infected from close contact with personal items, such as a wet towel or clothes. Trichomoniasis can only survive for a short amount of time on surfaces, which is why it is usually not spread this way (Partin, 2021).

How quickly do symptoms of trichomoniasis appear?

If symptoms of trichomoniasis appear at all, they usually begin one to four weeks after infection (Mayo Clinic). If left untreated, trichomoniasis can continue to infect others for years. This is why regular testing and treatment is required to prevent spreading the infection to others.

How common is trichomoniasis?

According to World Health Organization, approximately 160 million trichomoniasis infections are recorded worldwide every year (WHO, 2022). Most infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Trichomoniasis is less common in Western Europe, although limited prevalence data is available as there is no obligation for doctors or clinics to report this STI.

How do you test for trichomoniasis?

Testing for trichomoniasis can be performed with a urine test for men or a swab test for women. This can be performed at the GP’s office, a sexual health clinic, or using a home STI test, such as Homed-IQ’s STI Test Complete or STI Test Comprehensive. These home tests check for several viral and bacterial STIs, including trichomoniasis. Have you had unprotected sex with a person who has trichomoniasis or do you have symptoms? Then it is wise to get tested. The test can be taken at home, after which a certified laboratory analyzes the sample.

How to prevent a trichomoniasis infection

Trichomoniasis can be prevented by having safe sex and using contraceptives such as  condoms (CDC). Furthermore, getting tested regularly allows you to detect infections earlier and prevent them from spreading to others.

Is trichomoniasis dangerous?

Trichomoniasis can be treated with antibiotics and is generally not a dangerous STI. If symptoms do occur, they usually do not cause any long-term health effects. However, trichomoniasis can pose a risk to pregnant women, as an infection is associated with premature birth (CDC). As such, it is important to detect trichomoniasis infections and treat them accordingly.

Treatment of trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is treated with antibiotics- usually the drug metronidazole- in a series of pills that you have to take over a few days or in a large, single dose (NHS, 2021). It is important not to drink alcohol for the entire duration of treatment, as well as 24 hours after the treatment has ended. It’s also important that your current or recent sex partners get tested to avoid the risk of reinfection. You should also not have sex while on treatment for trichomoniasis, and to avoid sex for 7 days if you were treated with a single dose of antibiotics. 

Would you like to get tested for trichomoniasis from home? Homed-IQ offers three STI tests that include trichomoniasis. 

Sources

NHS website. (2022, June 22). Trichomoniasis- Treatment. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/trichomoniasis/treatment/

Partin, A. W. (2021). Trichomoniasis. Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/trichomoniasis

STD Facts – Trichomoniasis. (n.d.). https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm

Trichomoniasis – Symptoms and causes. (2022, May 17). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/trichomoniasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20378609

What Is Trichomoniasis? & How Do You Get It? (n.d.). Planned Parenthood. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/trichomoniasis

World Health Organization. (2022, August 22). Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis)

About the author

Lauren Dobischok

Lauren is a health scientist and science communicator living in the Netherlands. With a background in epidemiology, her goal is to create accurate scientific content that is easy to understand and empowers people to make informed decisions. Her favourite topics to discuss are public health, infectious diseases, and dispelling myths and misconceptions about health topics with research. Coming from Canada, Lauren prefers to spend her free time learning Dutch and exploring the interesting sights this small country has to offer!