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      Trichomoniasis: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes and Risks

      Sex Life

      Trichomoniasis: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes and Risks

      Updated on 7 July 2023

      Trichomoniasis, also known as “trich,” is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. This infection is one of the most common curable STIs worldwide, affecting an estimated 156 million people every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In this article, we’ll explore the meaning, symptoms, causes, and risks associated with trichomoniasis.

      What is Trichomoniasis?

      Trichomoniasis is an STI caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis, which can infect both men and women. This infection is transmitted through sexual contact with someone who has the parasite, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The infection can also be spread through sharing sex toys, although this is less common.

      Once a person is infected with trichomoniasis, they may experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe, or they may not have any symptoms at all.

      Trichomoniasis Symptoms

      Symptoms of trichomoniasis can vary depending on the severity of the infection and whether the person infected is male or female. Symptoms of Trichomoniasis are as follows:

      1. Vaginal discharge

      Women may experience a frothy, greenish-yellow discharge from the vagina.

      2. Itching or burning

      Both men and women may experience itching, burning, or irritation in the genital area.

      3. Pain during urination

      Men may experience pain or discomfort during urination.

      4. Pain during sex

      Women may experience discomfort or pain during sex.

      5. Foul odor

      Both men and women may notice a foul odor coming from the genitals.

      6. Swelling or redness

      Women may experience swelling or redness of the genitals.

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      7. Lower abdominal pain

      Women may experience lower abdominal pain, which can be a sign of a more severe infection.

      Causes of Trichomoniasis

      Trichomoniasis is caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis, which is transmitted through sexual contact with someone who has the parasite. This can include vaginal, anal, or oral sex, as well as sharing sex toys. The parasite can survive outside of the body for a short period of time, which means it can be transmitted through objects like towels, wet clothing, or toilet seats, although this is less common.

      The risk of contracting trichomoniasis is higher for people who have multiple sexual partners, those who have unprotected sex, and those who have a history of STIs. Women who are pregnant may also be at a higher risk of contracting trichomoniasis, as the infection can lead to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

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      What are the Risks of Trichomoniasis?

      Trichomoniasis can lead to a several health complications if left untreated, including:

      1. Increased risk of HIV

      People who are infected with trichomoniasis are more likely to contract HIV if they are exposed to the virus.

      2. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

      PID is a serious infection of the female reproductive system that can cause long-term health problems, including infertility. Trichomoniasis is a risk factor for developing PID.

      3. Preterm birth

      Pregnant women with trichomoniasis are at higher risk of delivering their baby prematurely, which can lead to a range of health problems for the baby.

      4. Prostate problems

      Men with trichomoniasis may experience inflammation of the prostate gland, which can cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty urinating.

      5. Increased risk of cervical cancer

      While trichomoniasis does not cause cervical cancer directly, it can cause inflammation that may increase the risk of developing cancer over time.

      6. Decreased sexual pleasure

      In some cases, trichomoniasis can cause discomfort or pain during sex, which can decrease sexual pleasure and lead to sexual problems.

      How is Trichomonas Infection Identified?

      It's important to get tested for trichomoniasis and other STIs regularly, especially if you are sexually active. Trichomonas infection is identified through several methods, including physical examination, laboratory testing, and differential diagnosis.

      Physical Examination

      During a physical examination, a healthcare provider will examine the genitals and look for signs of inflammation, discharge, and other symptoms. In women, a pelvic exam may be performed to check for any abnormalities in the reproductive system.

      Laboratory Testing

      Laboratory testing is the most reliable method of diagnosing trichomonas infection. The following tests may be used:

      1. Microscopic examination: A sample of vaginal or urethral discharge is taken and examined under a microscope to look for the presence of Trichomonas vaginalis.

      2. Nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT): This test detects the genetic material of the parasite and is highly sensitive and specific.

      Differential Diagnosis

      Other conditions may cause symptoms similar to trichomonas infection, and a differential diagnosis is essential to rule out other possible causes. Some conditions that may be considered during differential diagnosis include:

      1. Yeast infection: Yeast infections can cause vaginal discharge, itching, and pain during sex.

      2. Bacterial vaginosis: Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection that can cause vaginal discharge and odor.

      3. Gonorrhea and chlamydia: These are bacterial STIs that can cause similar symptoms to trichomonas infection.

      4. Genital herpes: Genital herpes can cause painful blisters and sores in the genital area.

      5. Urinary tract infection: Urinary tract infections can cause painful urination, frequent urination, and lower abdominal pain.

      How to Prevent Trichomonas Infection?

      Here are some ways to prevent the infection:

      1. Abstinence

      The most effective way to prevent trichomoniasis and other sexually transmitted infections is to abstain from sexual activity.

      2. Mutual monogamy

      If you are sexually active, having sex with only one partner can help reduce the risk of infection.

      3. Use of condoms

      Using condoms during sexual activity can help reduce the risk of trichomoniasis and other STIs.

      4. Regular testing

      Getting tested for trichomoniasis and other STIs regularly, to detect infections early and prevent the spread of infection.

      5. Avoid sharing personal items

      Sharing personal items such as towels, underclothing, and sex toys can increase the risk of transmitting trichomoniasis and other STIs.

      6. Practicing good hygiene

      Practicing good hygiene, including washing the genital area before and after sexual activity, can help reduce the risk of trichomoniasis and other STIs.

      You may also like: How to Clean Your Vagina & Vulva | Complete Guide

      Trichomonas Infection Treatment

      If you or your partner is diagnosed with trichomoniasis or any other STI, it's essential to seek medical treatment as soon as possible and complete the full course of medication prescribed by your healthcare provider.

      The primary treatment option for Trichomoniasis is the use of oral antibiotics. The most commonly prescribed antibiotics for Trichomoniasis are metronidazole and tinidazole. These medications are effective in eliminating the infection caused by the Trichomonas parasite. The standard treatment usually involves a single dose of the antibiotic. However, in some cases, a healthcare provider may recommend a longer course of treatment or additional doses depending on the severity of the infection.

      It is important for both the infected individual and their sexual partner(s) to undergo treatment simultaneously to prevent reinfection. Healthcare providers may also advise abstaining from sexual activity until both partners have completed the treatment. If an individual is allergic to or cannot tolerate metronidazole or tinidazole, alternative treatment options can be considered. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional or an allergy specialist in such cases.

      Retesting for Trichomoniasis is recommended approximately three months after completing the treatment to ensure that the infection has been successfully cleared. In cases of recurrent or persistent infections, additional treatment options and drug susceptibility testing can be explored in consultation with healthcare providers or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

      Final Thoughts

      In conclusion, trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection that affects millions of people worldwide. The main mode of transmission for trichomoniasis is through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Prevention is key when it comes to trichomoniasis. By practicing safe sex, getting regular screenings for sexually transmitted infections, and maintaining open communication with sexual partners, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of contracting and spreading this infection.


      1. Kissinger P. (2015). Trichomonas vaginalis: a review of epidemiologic, clinical and treatment issues. BMC Infect Dis.

      2. Schumann JA, Plasner S. (2022). Trichomoniasis. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing

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      Written by

      Madhavi Gupta

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