Commonly referred to as 'Trich' (pronounced 'Trick') Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) spread by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis (TV). More than 170 million people worldwide are estimated to have trichomoniasis, making this STI the most common curable sexually transmitted disease in the world. Despite it being incredibly common, many people who have this infection will never develop trichomoniasis symptoms. In fact, around 70% of people with the illness will be asymptomatic. For this reason, it's essential that you get yourself checked out if you've had unprotected sex or if a sexual partner is diagnosed with or has symptoms of trichomoniasis.
It is a very treatable condition; however, it can cause some potentially serious complications if left undiagnosed. For example, it is believed that the trichomonas vaginalis parasite increases the risk of HIV transmission and can increase the risk of premature births and low birth weight in the babies of pregnant women.
At iPlaySafe App, we're passionate about educating people about sexually transmitted infections and breaking down the stigmas of discussing them. It's really easy to get tested and treated for trichomoniasis, so if you are sexually active, have had unprotected sexual contact or/and many sexual partners, or believe you have any of the symptoms of the infection, it's really important you seek medical advice.
Symptoms for trichomoniasis can be quite similar to other STDs, so it can be difficult to diagnose without a laboratory test and examination. What's more, many people with Trichomoniasis don't have any symptoms but can still pass the virus on.
Trichomoniasis Symptoms In Males
In men, common symptoms of trichomoniasis include:
- Pain or discomfort when ejaculating or during urination
- A feeling of irritation and itchiness inside the penis
- A burning sensation during urination
- Discomfort or pain during intercourse with sexual partners
- Needing to urinate more often
- Sometimes a milky, white penile discharge can be secreted
- Redness, soreness or/and swelling around the foreskin
Should you experience any of these symptoms, it's important that you seek medical advice and stop any sexual contact with partners until you have undergone diagnosis and treatment. This includes using and sharing sex toys.
Trichomoniasis Symptoms In Females
In women, symptoms can include:
- Discomfort around the genital area, including itching, redness and soreness
- Itching and swelling of the vagina that sometimes spreads to the inner thighs
- Burning or pain during urination
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge, which can have an unpleasant fishy smell soreness and be yellow or green
- Pain or discomfort during vaginal sex
- Some women experience lower abdominal pain, although this is rare
- During menstruation, symptoms can get worse and be exacerbated
- Pregnant women with trichomoniasis have an increased risk of having babies with low birth weight or giving birth prematurely
- That's why it's super important to get trichomoniasis treated, should you suspect you are infected
How Long Do Symptoms Take To Manifest?
Symptoms of a trichomoniasis infection can take between 5-28 days from the initial infection to manifest, but remember, many people never get symptoms at all. For this reason, it's important to understand how the disease is caught and transmitted to protect yourself and prevent trichomoniasis.
In women, this organism is usually found inside the vagina and the urethra. In men, the infection is commonly located inside the urethra; however, it can also sometimes be found in the lower genital tract or the head of the penis and prostate gland.
The most common causes for transmission include intercourse with sexual partners without the correct use of a condom. You can also catch the infection from using sex toys without cleaning them or covering them with a fresh condom between each use. The infection is not known to be passed on through anal sex or oral sex.
It doesn't matter if you've had one or multiple sexual partners: anyone who is sexually active and engages in genital touching can catch and transmit trichomoniasis. For this reason, if you have any of the symptoms listed or have had unsafe sex recently, it's worth seeing your GP or local sexual health clinic to ensure you don't have trich or any other STDs.
When to Seek Professional Treatment For Symptoms
If you believe you are experiencing any of the symptoms of trich, you should seek professional treatment as soon as possible. You should also go and visit your sexual health clinic or your GP if:
- You have recently had unprotected sex.
- A sexual partner informs you that they have been diagnosed with trichomoniasis or any other STD.
- You have any other symptoms that concern you.
Remember, trichomoniasis is the most common curable STD, but if left untreated, it can increase the risk of HIV transmission and cause complications at birth for pregnant women. For this reason, it's really important to carry out disease control and to ensure you aren't carrying any undiagnosed infections.
You can seek medical treatment at your GP or a local sexual health clinic. To diagnose trich (or any other sexually transmitted infections), a healthcare provider will need to carry out some tests. For men, this is usually in the form of a urine sample and occasionally an examination of the genitals if you are experiencing penis pain.
For women, a pelvic examination may be undertaken to see if there are any small red sores inside the vagina or cervix. A vaginal swab will also be taken to test for the tiny parasite that causes trichomoniasis.
If your test results are positive, you will need to inform your current and recent sexual partners so that they can get tested and, if necessary, treated. To rule out further infections, you should also get a test for other sexually transmitted diseases, either at your local clinic or by taking an at-home test.
What Treatment To Expect
If you believe you have trichomoniasis or have been diagnosed with the condition, don't panic. Trich is an easily treatable STD, but it's really important you get tested and treated. Without treatment, trichomoniasis can last for months and even years: it will, except in incredibly rare cases, never go on its own. And, the whole time you're infected, you can pass the infection onto your sexual partners.
An oral antibiotic will normally be prescribed to treat trich. Common prescriptions in the UK include Metronidazole or Tinidazole, and you'll normally be given a course of antibiotics to be taken over 5-7 days. However, sometimes you could be prescribed a single, larger dose. You must take the full course, even if your symptoms ease before!
The most commonly prescribed treatment for trich, Metronidazole, has a few side effects that you should be aware of when taking the drug. These include:
- Metallic taste
It is recommended that you always take Metronidazole after eating to reduce the risk of such symptoms. If you have any adverse side effects or vomit after taking the antibiotics, you'll need to contact your local health service or GP, as you may need to try a different treatment.
Additionally, it's really important that you don't drink alcohol whilst on a course of Metronidazole. This can cause some nasty side effects, including:
- Heart palpitations (an increased heart rate)
- Flushed and hot skin
- Significant nausea and/or vomiting
If you have been diagnosed with trich, any current sexual partners must also be treated, or else you're highly likely to be reinfected: even if they don't have any symptoms. You should refrain from any sexual intercourse for one week after finishing your antibiotics to allow the infection to completely clear and for any symptoms to ease.
If you correctly take your prescribed antibiotics, you shouldn't need to return to your health service for any follow-up treatments. However, you may need to seek further medical advice if:
- You are still experiencing symptoms once you've finished your antibiotics. In this case, further testing might be required to rule out other infections.
- You have unsafe sex before finishing your treatment.
- You don't complete your course of antibiotics.
- You vomit during your course of antibiotics.
Is trichomoniasis a common sexually transmitted infection?
Yes, trichomoniasis is an incredibly common infection: in fact, it's the most common curable STD in the world! Despite this, many people infected with trichomoniasis won't have any symptoms, which means that they can pass it on without realising and remain untreated for a long time.
For this reason, if you think you might have any symptoms of trich, or you've recently had sex without using a condom, you should get an STD test for disease control: to rule out trichomoniasis, as well as any other sexually transmitted infections.
Although easily treated, it does have some dangerous potential side effects, such as increasing the risk of HIV transmission and causing premature delivery and low-weight births for pregnant women. For this reason, it's always best to get a test!
How long does trichomoniasis last?
Trichomoniasis is highly unlikely to go away without treatment, which means that you could have the infection for years without knowing, should you be asymptomatic.
The infection may cure itself in some very rare cases; however, you risk passing it on if you don't get tested and treated. Should you have any symptoms or have had unsafe sex with one or multiple partners, you should get a test.
If you are diagnosed with trich, the course of antibiotics will usually last around 7 days. You'll need to wait another week after finishing the antibiotics before having sexual intercourse: this is to ensure the infection has completely gone and to reduce the risk of reinfection! So, once diagnosed, trich will take around 2 weeks to treat fully.
Is trichomoniasis easy to catch than other sexually transmitted infections?
Trichomoniasis is spread through sexual (vaginal) intercourse or by sharing sex toys that haven't been disinfected or covered with a clean condom before use. It's usually spread due to unsafe sex or from the incorrect use of a condom. For this reason, it's really important you learn about safer sex, to prevent the risk of getting an infection like trich.
Unlike some other STDs, you can't catch trich through oral or anal sex, like genital herpes and chlamydia. Nevertheless, it’s an easily transmitted infection - you should always use a condom or get tested for any symptoms after unsafe sex.
Do I need to tell any sexual partners that I have trichomoniasis symptoms?
Should you get any symptoms that could indicate an STD, such as trichomoniasis, it's incredibly important that you immediately seek medical advice to get an accurate diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with trichomoniasis (or any other STD), you will need to contact any recent sexual contacts so that they can also get tested and treated: even if they don't currently have symptoms.