Trichomoniasis, also known as “trich,” is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It’s caused by a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis.
An estimated 3.7 million people are diagnosed with trichomoniasis in the United States. It’s more common in women than in men, and older women are most likely to have been infected with it at some point in their lives. Most people who have the STI never develop symptoms.
There May Not Be Symptoms
While up to 70 percent of those infected with trichomoniasis never have symptoms, those who do typically experience mild irritation to severe inflammation 5 to 28 days after becoming infected. These symptoms may come and go, but even if symptoms aren’t present, the infection can be passed to others through vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
Women with trichomoniasis may experience:
- Genital itching, burning, redness, or soreness
- Painful or uncomfortable urination
- An unusual vaginal discharge that may be an abnormal color or smell fishy
Men with trichomoniasis may notice burning during urination or ejaculation, itchiness or irritation, or a discharge.
Both genders may find sexual intercourse to be unpleasant or uncomfortable.
Treatment Is Antibiotic Medication
Because many people don’t realize they have trichomoniasis, they don’t seek treatment. Without treatment, the infection can stay in the body for up to one year. Untreated trichomoniasis can increase the risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, if you’re exposed to it. The good news is that trichomoniasis is one of the most easily treated STIs. All it takes is a single dose of a prescription antibiotic (metronidazole or tinidazole).
When you begin treatment, your sexual partner(s) should be treated, too. You shouldn’t engage in sexual activity until you have finished the antibiotic, symptoms are gone, and you’ve gotten clearance from your physician. This typically results in 7 to 10 days without sexual activity.
Unfortunately, being treated for trichomoniasis does not make you immune. You can be re-infected. In fact, about 1 in 5 people are infected again within three months after treatment, usually because a sexual partner hasn’t been treated. And If you are positive for trich, it is important to be tested for other STI.
If you suspect you’ve been infected with trichomoniasis because a partner is infected, or because you're experiencing symptoms, it’s important to get screened as soon as possible. Make an appointment online at one of our 19 Kelsey-Seybold Clinic locations or call our 24/7 Contact Center at 713-442-0427.
Dr. Deepali Patni is a board-certified Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Downtown at The Shops at 4 Houston Center and Woman’s Center locations. Her clinical interests include well-woman care and gynecological surgery.