Coronavirus Update:What patients and families need to know
What is trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a parasite, called a trichomonad. It is also known as "trich" (pronounced like "trick").
Both men and women can get it. Trich most often infects the vagina, urethra (the tube that urine passes through) and vulva (the area outside and around the vagina) in women, and the urethra in men.
How common is trichomoniasis?
- Trich is a very common STI and it's the most common curable STI in young, sexually active women.
- Approximately 3.7 million people in the United States are infected.
- In 2007, there were over 7.5 million estimated new cases of trich in the United States, but not all of these cases are diagnosed and treated.
How do I know if I have trichomoniasis?
Only about 30% of people infected with trich ever have any symptoms. Men rarely have symptoms but the parasite still lives and multiplies in their bodies and they can still infect their partners.
Many people infected with trich have NO SYMPTOMS; the only way to know for sure is to GET TESTED. If you do get symptoms, they might not begin until days or even months after you are infected but you can still spread trich to your partner(s) during this time.
You may or may not get symptoms. If you do get symptoms, they can include:
- Yellow, gray or green discharge or liquid from your vagina. The discharge or liquid might smell foul or fishy.
- Burning, itchiness, soreness or redness in or around your vagina
- Pain or burning when you pee
- Pain or bleeding during sex
Men usually don't have symptoms but the parasite still lives and multiplies in their bodies and they can still infect their partner(s). If your partner experiences any symptoms, it's important for her to let you know. It could mean that you have trich too and will need to see a doctor for treatment.
If you do get symptoms, they can include:
- Pain or burning during or after you pee
- Burning after ejaculation
- Itching or irritation in your penis – trich affects the urethra, the tube that urine passes through, and can cause the itching/irritation
- Pain during sex
Who is most likely to get trichomoniasis?
You are more likely to get trich if:
- You are having sex with more than one person.
- The person/people you are having sex with are having sex with other people.
- You don't use condoms.
Trich is the most common curable STI in young women but that might not mean that young women are more likely to get it than other people. It might mean that young women are more likely to have symptoms or more likely to get tested.
How do you get trichomoniasis?
You can get trichomoniasis from unprotected or under-protected sex. This means having sex without using condoms or using a condom, but the condom breaks, slips off or you don't use it the entire time.
You get trich by coming in contact with the body fluids of an infected person during vaginal or anal sex. Women are often infected by male partners who don't know they have trich because they don't have any symptoms. This is why it's important to use condoms during sex, even if the other person doesn't think they have an STI.
You cannot get it from toilet seats.
How can I keep from getting trichomoniasis?
The only 100% effective way to not get trich is to not have sex.
If you have sex, use a condom every time you have sex and get tested regularly. Since trich is passed through body fluids, using latex condoms during sex is the most effective way to lower your risk of getting trich.
Ask your partner(s) to get tested before you start having sex. You can get trich again, even if you have been treated for it in the past. Only have sex with a partner who has tested negative for trich and is not having sex with anyone else.
How can I keep from spreading trichomoniasis?
If you think you might have trich, don't have sex until you get tested and treated. Get tested regularly. You can still spread trich even if you don't have symptoms.
Use a condom EVERY TIME you have sex.
If you test positive for trich:
- Don't have sex until you've finished your medicine and your doctor says it's ok.
- Tell all of your current and past partners that you have it, since they could have it too. Remember, many people don't get symptoms and may not know they have it but they can still spread trich to other people and should be treated.
Can trichomoniasis be treated? How do I get rid of it?
YES. You can treat and cure trichomoniasis with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. The antibiotics usually prescribed to treat trich are metronidazole or tinidazole. Common names for these antibiotics are Flagyl and Tindamax. It's normal for a doctor to prescribe the antibiotic in one single dose and you need to take the whole dose for it to be most effective.
To make sure trich is cured and the you don't pass it on to your partner or become re-infected, don't have sex until you have taken all the antibiotics and your partner has been tested and treated if necessary. Don't drink alcohol while you are taking medication for trich or you may get sick and throw up. This could make the medication less effective.
Your partner(s) should also get tested and treated at the same time so you don't re-infect each other. Remember, even if your partner doesn't have any symptoms, he or she can have trich and can still re-infect you.
The first step to getting rid of trich is to see a doctor and get tested.
What can happen if I don't get treatment for trichomoniasis?
You could pass it to your partner(s), even if you don't have symptoms when you have sex. You could also be more likely to get other STIs and/or HIV.
If you are pregnant, you are more likely to have your baby too early or have a baby that weighs less.
How do I get tested for trichomoniasis?
You can get tested at places like family planning centers, private doctors' offices, STI clinics, hospital clinics or health departments. Find a place to get tested from this list of testing locations.
Your doctor will give you a physical exam and use a cotton swab to take a sample of your vaginal discharge.
Doctors don't usually test for trich in men during your yearly or regular STI testing. If you are having symptoms and/or a partner tells you she has symptoms or tested positive for trich, be sure to let your doctor know. A urine sample can be used to test for trich or your doctor might use other special DNA tests.
How often should I get tested for trichomoniasis?
If you think you have trich or you think you have been exposed to trich, talk to a doctor about getting tested.
It is important to continue to get tested regularly, even if you took all of your medicine and cured a past infection. You can get trich more than once and may not have symptoms even if you had symptoms before.