Trichomoniasis

Specialty of Genitourinary Medicine

What is trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (SIT) caused by a parasite. It can affect both men and women, but does not always caused symptoms.

Thrichomoniasis is the world’s most common non-viral STI, but in the UK there are few cases, and these tend to be clustered in urban areas, in particular London and Birmingham.

What are the symptoms?

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 gray, green, yellow or white

In men, 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 a low birth weight.

How is trichomoniasis diagnosed?

If you suspect you might have trichomoniasis or another sexually transmitted infection you can visit your GP or local sexual health clinic. They 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.

What causes trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is caused by a one-celled parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis.

The parasite is usually spread by having unprotected sex, 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.

You’re most likely to get infected if you have multiple sexual partners. If you are infected, your chances of being infected again in the future are higher.

How can trichomoniasis be prevented?

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.

How is trichomoniasis treated?

The most common form of treatment is to take antibiotics for a period of about a wee, usually metronidazole. 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.

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