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Trichomoniasis

Condition Basics

What is trichomoniasis (trich)?

Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by a parasite. It's spread by sexual contact (sexually transmitted infection, or STI). It's sometimes called trich (say "trick"). Anyone can get trich, but most people don't have symptoms. Trich can cause problems during pregnancy.

What causes it?

Trich is caused by a parasite. The parasite usually infects the urethra, bladder, vagina, or cervix.

What are the symptoms?

Most people don't have any symptoms of trich. If you do have symptoms, they usually start within 1 week after you were infected. But symptoms can develop months later.

Symptoms may include:

  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis.
  • Irritation or itching in the genital area.
  • Pain or burning when you urinate.
  • Pain during sex.

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose trich, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and your sexual history. You may also have a physical exam. This includes a visual exam of your vulva or penis. The doctor will look for patchy red spots that are caused by trich. Any discharge will be checked for color, odor, and texture.

Several types of tests can be used to diagnose trich. Most use a sample of urine or a swab from the cervix or vagina.

How is trich treated?

Trich is treated with an oral antiprotozoal medicine, such as metronidazole or tinidazole. These medicines kill the parasite that causes the infection. The medicine is usually taken by mouth as pills, tablets, or capsules.

Vaginal creams and suppositories can help ease symptoms, but they won't cure trich.

Your sex partner(s) should be treated at the same time as you are treated. This increases the cure rate and helps prevent you from spreading the disease or getting it again.

Trich during pregnancy raises the risk of prelabor rupture of membranes (PROM) and preterm delivery. Treating the infection may not always reduce this risk. But it can relieve symptoms and prevent infection in the newborn.

It's possible to get trich again. So make sure to take steps to reduce your risk for trich and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

If symptoms don't go away, you may need to take the medicine again.

How can you prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

It's easier to prevent an STI than it is to treat one:

  • Limit your sex partners. The safest sex is with one partner who has sex only with you.
  • Talk with your partner or partners about STIs before you have sex. Find out if they are at risk for an STI. Remember that it's possible to have an STI and not know it.
  • Wait to have sex with new partners until you've each been tested.
  • Don't have sex if you have symptoms of an infection or if you are being treated for an STI.
  • Use a condom (a male or female condom) every time you have sex. Condoms are the only form of birth control that also helps prevent STIs.
  • If you're pregnant, be extra careful. Some STIs can be passed to your baby during delivery.

Vaccines are available for some STIs, such as HPV. Ask your doctor for more information.

Credits

Current as of: November 22, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Jeanne Marrazzo MD, MPH - Infectious Disease

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