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Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a relatively common sexually transmitted infection caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis (TV).

Many women and men won’t know they are affected, because trichomoniasis doesn’t always cause any symptoms.

Trichomoniasis can usually be cured with a course of antibiotics.

A University of California found study published in 2014 suggested a link between trichomoniasis and prostate cancer in men. However, experts stress the research had some limitations and was not conclusive proof.

How do I know if I have trichomoniasis?

Men often do not have symptoms and usually do not know they are infected until their partners need treatment. But when symptoms do occur, they include:

  • Irritation inside the penis
  • Mild discharge
  • Slight burning sensation after urination or ejaculation.

Many women do have signs or symptoms of infection. Symptoms in women can include:

  • Greenish-yellow, frothy vaginal discharge with a strong odour
  • Painful urination
  • Vaginal itching and irritation
  • Discomfort during intercourse
  • Lower abdominal pain (rare).

Symptoms usually appear within five to 28 days of exposure in women.

How is trichomoniasis diagnosed?

To diagnose trichomoniasis, a doctor must perform a physical examination and a laboratory test. Laboratory tests are performed on a sample of vaginal fluid or urethral fluid to look for the disease-causing parasite. The parasite is harder to detect in men than in women.

How is trichomoniasis treated?

Usually an oral antibiotic called metronidazole is given to treat trichomoniasis. Before taking this medication, it is very important to let your doctor know if there is any chance that you could be pregnant, since the medication could harm the baby.

Your partner should also be treated at the same time to prevent reinfection and further spread of the disease. In addition, those being treated for trichomoniasis should avoid sex until they and their sexual partners complete treatment and have no symptoms. It is important to take all of your antibiotics, even if you feel better.

What happens if I don't get treated?

Trichomoniasis in pregnant women may cause premature rupture of the membranes that protect the baby and preterm delivery. The genital inflammation caused by trichomoniasis might also increase a woman's risk of acquiring HIV infection if she is exposed to HIV. Trichomoniasis in a woman who is also infected with HIV can increase the chances of transmitting HIV infection to a sexual partner.

How can I prevent trichomoniasis infection?

To reduce your risk of infection:

  • Use condoms correctly every time you have sex.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners, and do not go back and forth between partners.
  • Practise sexual abstinence, or limit sexual contact to one uninfected partner.
  • If you think you are infected, avoid sexual contact and seek medical advice.

Any genital symptoms such as discharge, or a burning sensation during urination, or an unusual sore or rash should be a signal to stop having sex and to seek medical advice promptly. If you are told you have trichomoniasis or any other STI and receive treatment, you should notify all of your recent sexual partners so that they can also be tested and treated.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 25, 2014

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