Trichomonas vaginalis is a parasite that transmits from one person to another during sex. The parasite is tiny and undetectable unless it is viewed in a laboratory under a microscope. Commonly, this STI doesn't have any signs in 50% of people - so if you're sexually active it's important to regularly take a trichomoniasis test.
When signs do appear, they are often very similar to other STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea. There will be some unusual vaginal discharge or discharge from the penis - there will also be some pain when urinating.
Since these symptoms are common in different STIs, it's a good idea to check for trichomoniasis. There are various ways you can do this - contact your doctor, visit a GUM clinic, or take an at-home test.
What is Trichomoniasis?
Bacteria cause most STIs, but trichomoniasis is different - it is caused by a parasite called trichomonas vaginalis. This parasite is tiny and lives in the fluids generated during sexual activity. It transmits from one person to another during sex or by sharing unwashed sex toys.
If you catch trichomoniasis, you might develop symptoms within a month. These signs are similar to many other sexually transmitted infections and include unusual discharge from the penis, vagina, anus, swelling or itching of the genitals, and pain when urinating. But many people don't have symptoms.
If you don't treat trichomoniasis, it will persist. It can lead to complications like infertility and, for pregnant women, possible transmission to an unborn child. Luckily, the treatments are fast and straightforward. This STI is treated using an antibiotic called metronidazole, which is taken for seven days.
What are the symptoms of Trichomoniasis in Women?
The symptoms of trichomoniasis in women include abnormal vaginal discharge, which may be thick, frothy, yellow, or green - it might also smell unpleasant, and there could be vaginal itching. There might also be some soreness and swelling around the vagina and pain while urinating or having sex.
These signs will develop within one month of contracting the disease; however, more than half of people won't experience any symptoms. This makes it even more important to regularly check for STIs like trichomoniasis if you think you are at risk of catching the infection.
If a woman contracts trichomoniasis and doesn't get treated, as mentioned above, it can lead to infertility and make it easier to catch other STI infections.
What are the Trichomoniasis symptoms in Men?
In men, the signs of trichomoniasis are also similar to other STI infections. However, as with women, around 50% of people will not experience any symptoms and will need to get tested to find out if they have this sexually transmitted infection.
Those who experience signs will usually have some pain when ejaculating and need to urinate more frequently. There might also be some unusual white, green, or yellow discharge from the penis and soreness or redness around the top of the penis and the foreskin.
Trichomoniasis can spread quickly during sex and often has no signs. Complications for men resulting from this STI are discomfort and infertility - it can also make it easier to catch other sexually transmitted infections. Therefore, this disease should be tested for regularly and treated quickly.
How do I test for Trichomoniasis?
Even if you don't have signs, it's a good idea to regularly test for trichomoniasis. If you're sexually active and believe you are exhibiting symptoms, you should take an exam at a GUM clinic or take a home test. This will protect your health and keep your sexual partners safe as well.
Trichomonas vaginalis testing is straightforward. If you go to a doctor or a medical professional at a GUM clinic, they will take a swap from the infected area - the top of the penis or the vagina. This sample is then taken for laboratory tests. Your results might be available on the same day at a GUM clinic.
If you want to take a home test, the procedure is very similar. Your home test will have instructions for you to follow, but it involves taking a sample from the infected area and sending it for lab tests online. You send it to the lab in the mail and can expect your results to come back in a matter of weeks.
What treatment is available for Trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis isn't easy to discover, especially you've not experienced any symptoms; however, it is very easy to treat with antibiotics. If you test positive for the disease, it can be eliminated in 7 days with metronidazole or tinidazole - which are antibiotics taken orally in tablet form.
If you discover you have the disease, you and your partner(s) must get treated for trichomoniasis. Your doctor or healthcare professional will examine you and prescribe a 7-day course of antibiotics. In addition, you will have to take two tablets per day for a week and abstain from sex during this time.
Following a 7-day course of treatment, you need to wait for a further 7-days before you have sex again. This is also the case for your partners if they are being treated for the condition. It's important to take precautions after being treated, as it's possible to get reinfected by the parasite.
What happens if trichomoniasis is left untreated?
It is unlikely that trichomoniasis will disappear on its own, although this has been known to happen in a few rare cases. If you want to eliminate the parasite from your system, you will have to test for the disease and undergo a short course of antibiotics. It can be risky not to treat the condition.
Although trichomoniasis is not life-threatening on its own, it can increase the chances of someone catching a life-threatening disease such as HIV or cervical cancer. It has also been linked to prostate cancer. Trichomoniasis can also lead to infertility and can be passed on easily if you have it.
The good news is that testing for trichomoniasis is straightforward - you can find out if you have it by taking a home test or taking a trichomoniasis test at a GUM clinic. You may be at risk of having this disease if you have unprotected sex and you have more than one sexual partner.
Can I test for trichomoniasis at home?
Some people feel embarrassed about contacting their doctor or going to a GUM clinic for evaluation or treatment. For many, STIs are difficult to talk about, so a home testing kit might be a more comfortable option. You can carry out your own evaluation, and you won't have to speak to anyone.
You don't have to do anything else! The laboratory will receive your samples and test them under the microscope - they are looking for the parasite or the presence of the parasite due to some genetic material in the samples. In a few weeks, you will know if you have the infection or not.
Is trichomoniasis dangerous for pregnant women?
Having trichomoniasis is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, as it can cause many complications in the birthing process that risks the health of the mother and the child. Therefore, it's good for pregnant women to test for STIs before giving birth to eliminate the chances of passing on an infection or disease.
The primary risks to women and babies if the mother has trichomoniasis include low birth weight, premature birth, and pre-labour rupture of the membranes. The trich parasite can be passed on to the child in rare cases and cause fever and respiratory problems.
Additionally, the trich parasite can increase a woman's chances of contracting other STI infections such as HIV if exposed to the virus or bacteria. These infections can be dangerous for women who are pregnant and their children. Therefore, it's best to test regularly for STIs.
Will the NHS treat a sexually transmitted infection like trichomoniasis?
The NHS do treat trichomoniasis, as will any family doctor. However, depending on how serious your case is, it may be better to visit your local gynaecologist or GUM clinic, as they will have the facilities to test your sample and may be able to give you more tailored advice on your specific situation.
The NHS can give you reliable information on the disease, its transmission, and how the testing is carried out. In the case of trichomoniasis home testing, they can also give you information on the nearest test centres.
Your local sexual health clinic is also an excellent information resource if you have an STI like trichomoniasis or you suspect you might have it. They are invested in the health of individuals and preventing the spread of diseases and work alongside the NHS to provide testing and screening opportunities for all.
If I remain sexually active while waiting for test results, should I advise my sexual partner?
Yes. If you suspect you have an STI and you are being tested for it, you could pass it on to your sex partner if you continue to have sex. It would be irresponsible not to inform them of your STI test before having sex; you can then decide together if you want to have sex using protection.
If you are being examined for an STI, it's recommended that you abstain from having sex during the time of testing. If this is not possible, you should be completely transparent with your sexual partners and use proper protection. However, there is still a chance the infected person can transmit an STI.
The same rules apply after you have tested positive for trichomoniasis. Treatment for an STI like trichomoniasis usually takes seven days, during which time you are advised to abstain from sexual intercourse. You are also advised to abstain from sex for seven days after the course of treatment has finished.