- What is trichomoniasis?
- What causes trichomoniasis?
- Who is at risk of getting trichomoniasis?
- What are the symptoms?
- When should you seek medical attention for trichomoniasis?
- How is trichomoniasis diagnosed?
- Can trichomoniasis go away on its own?
- How can trichomoniasis be prevented?
- How is trichomoniasis treated?
- Who treats trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis (trich) is the world’s most common non-viral sexually transmitted infection (STI). In the UK there are few cases, and these tend to be clustered in urban areas, in particular London and Birmingham. It doesn’t often cause symptoms or problems, but it should be treated promptly.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. The parasite is usually spread by having unprotected sex, either penis to vagina or vagina to vagina, or by sharing sex toys. It can take up to a month after exposure to the parasite to develop an infection.
However, the parasite does not seem to spread through oral sex, anal sex, kissing, hugging, or using the same toilet seat.
Anyone who is sexually active can get trichomoniasis. Women are at a higher risk than men. Other risk factors include:
- having a partner who has tested positive for trichomoniasis
- having multiple sexual partners
- a previous STI, trichomoniasis or another
- having unprotected sexual intercourse
Many people with trichomoniasis will experience no symptoms at all.
Where it affects women, it can cause:
- vaginal itching or soreness
- a foul-smelling discharge that is grey, green, yellow, or white
- discomfort in the lower abdomen
In men, although symptoms are less common, it can cause:
- soreness or redness around the head of the penis
- a discharge that is thick and white
Finally, both men and women may experience pain when urinating.
In very rare cases, trichomoniasis can lead to complications in pregnant women such as premature birth or low birth weight.
If you suspect you might have trichomoniasis or another sexually transmitted infection you can visit your GP or local sexual health clinic. If a sexual partner has tested positive, you should also be tested.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, examine your genitals and take a swab from the vagina or penis to test in the laboratory. If you are diagnosed with trichomoniasis and you have a partner, they should also be tested.
It is unlikely that trichomoniasis will go without treatment. Although it may clear up in rare cases, without treatment there is a risk of passing on the infection to others and it can lead to complications in pregnancy.
You cannot prevent trichomoniasis if you have sex, but you can reduce your chances of infection by wearing a condom, and always washing sex toys after use.
The most common form of treatment is to take antibiotics for a period of about a week, usually metronidazole, tinidazole, or secnidazole. The dosage will depend on whether or not you are pregnant. It’s important during this time not to have sexual intercourse or you risk becoming infected again.
A GP or gynaecologist can diagnose and prescribe medication to treat trichomoniasis.