Trichomoniasis: The Silent Culprit of Sexual Health

Dinesh Patel
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Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis, commonly known as “Trich,” is a prevalent and curable Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).

It is caused by a tiny parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis (TV).

Despite being a global health concern, Trich often flies under the radar due to its elusive nature, with up to 70% of infected individuals experiencing no symptoms. 

This article aims to shed light on Trichomoniasis, exploring its causes, symptoms, and prevalence to raise awareness about this often overlooked STI.

Symptoms of Trichomoniasis

One of its distinctive features is its ability to remain asymptomatic in many cases. 

When symptoms do manifest, they typically appear within five to 28 days after exposure. 

The symptoms vary between genders, with men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB) rarely exhibiting signs. 

In those cases, symptoms may include

  • Burning after ejaculation
  • Froth-like discharge from the penis
  • Irritation or itching inside the penis.

On the other hand, women and people with AFAB may experience more noticeable symptoms, such as: 

  • Vaginal discharge: Women may experience a considerable amount of thin, sometimes malodorous discharge, which can appear clear, white, gray, yellow, or green
  • Genital irritation: This could include redness, burning, itching, or discomfort in the vaginal area
  • Painful urination or intercourse: Women might experience pain or discomfort while urinating or engaging in sexual activities
  • Lower abdominal discomfort: Some women might feel discomfort in the lower stomach region
Recommended Article
To know more about how Trich affects women, read Trichomoniasis in Women: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Causes of Trichomoniasis

couple on bedSource: Syda_productions
Sexual contact

At the core of Trich is the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. 

This tiny organism primarily resides in the genital and urinary tracts of infected individuals, where it establishes an environment conducive to its survival and reproduction. 

The parasite is transmitted from one person to another through various forms of sexual contact.

The following are the key modes of transmission:

  • Vaginal-penile intercourse 
  • Vaginal-vaginal contact
  • Anal sex
  • Oral sex
  • Genital touching (skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation)
Fact:
In the United States, approximately 3.7 million individuals carry the infection, with only 30% displaying noticeable symptoms. Notably, Trich is more prevalent in Black women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB).

Risk factors

The risk of Trich increases if the following causes are present:

  • Having sex with many partners increases the risk of exposure to Trich
  • Individuals with a history of other Sexually Transmitted Infections are at a higher risk of contracting Trichomoniasis
  • If someone has had it before and it was left untreated or not fully cured, they are at an increased risk of getting infected again
  • Having sex without condoms or other barrier methods increases the chances of transmitting or acquiring infection

Complications

hivSource: ktsimage_from_GettyImages
HIV transmission risk

If Trich goes unnoticed due to its asymptomatic nature and is left untreated, there can be various complications, including:

  • Pregnancy complications: Trich in pregnant women can lead to premature delivery, low birth weight in infants, and the possibility of transmitting the infection to the newborn during birth
  • Increased susceptibility to other infections: It can cause irritation and inflammation in the genital area, making it easier for other STIs to enter the body or be transmitted to sexual partners
  • HIV transmission risk: Studies suggest that having Trichomoniasis might increase the association of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The infection seems to facilitate the transmission of HIV
  • Association with cancer risk: There’s an association between untreated Trich and an increased risk of cervical or prostate cancer. Research is ongoing to understand the correlation more deeply
  • Long-term infection: If left untreated, it can persist for months to years, leading to chronic discomfort and potential complications
Warning:
Untreated Trichomoniasis can lead to infertility in men and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women.

Trichomoniasis diagnosis

Diagnosis of Trich involves a few key steps:

  • Physical exam: Healthcare providers examine the genitals, possibly conducting a pelvic exam for individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB). They look for symptoms and might take a sample of discharge using a cotton swab
  • Lab test: The sample of vaginal or penile discharge is examined to detect trichomonads. If not visible, the sample may be sent for further testing in a lab

Treatment of Trichomoniasis

It is typically treated with antibiotics to eliminate the parasite causing the infection. Here’s what the treatment involves:

  • Medication: Healthcare providers prescribe oral antibiotics such as Metronidazole or Tinidazole to kill the parasite
  • Prescription duration: For individuals with vaginas, a seven-day course of Metronidazole is often prescribed. For individuals with penises, a single dose of Metronidazole can cure up to 95% of cases
  • Partner treatment: All sexual partners must receive treatment to prevent reinfection
  • Sexual activity: It’s advised to abstain from sexual activity for at least one week after completing the medication course to allow the drug to eliminate the infection effectively and for symptoms to clear up
  • Follow-up visit: It’s recommended to have a follow-up visit with the healthcare provider three months after treatment to ensure the infection has cleared completely

Preventing Trichomoniasis

use condomSource: Signature_images
Use condom

Certain preventive strategies can lower your risk of contracting the infection and safeguard your sexual health.

  • Consistent condom use lowers the risk of transmission
  • Get tested regularly for Trich and other STIs
  • Seek immediate treatment if diagnosed with Trich
  • Inform sexual partners about infections for prompt testing and treatment
  • Consider monogamous relationships to limit exposure
  • Minimize sexual partners to reduce infection risks
  • Schedule regular health checkups for comprehensive screenings
  • Stay informed about STIs and practice safe sexual habits

Conclusion

Trichomoniasis, often overlooked due to its asymptomatic nature in many cases, remains a significant concern for global sexual health. 

Despite its elusive behavior, this Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) caused by the Trichomonas vaginalis parasite affects millions worldwide.

Its modes of transmission range from various forms of sexual contact to the risk factors associated with many sexual partners or a history of STIs.

While men may often remain asymptomatic, women experience a range of symptoms, from vaginal discharge to discomfort during urination or intercourse.

Beyond its symptoms, untreated Trich can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes, increased susceptibility to other STIs like HIV, and its potential linkage to cervical cancer. 

Timely antibiotic diagnosis and treatment can effectively address Trichomoniasis, mitigating potential complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Trichomonas a serious STD?

It is considered a serious Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) due to its prevalence and potential complications if left untreated. While it might not have the same notoriety as some other STIs, it can have significant impacts on reproductive health and overall well-being if ignored.

Can Trichomoniasis be cured?

It is indeed curable. It can be effectively treated with antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare professional. Medications like Metronidazole or Tinidazole are commonly used to eliminate the parasite, offering an effective cure.

How long does Trich last?

The duration of Trichomoniasis varies. With proper treatment, symptoms typically improve within a few days to a week. However, if left untreated, the infection can last for months to years, causing chronic discomfort and potentially leading to complications.

Can I get Trich more than once?

Yes, it’s possible to get an infection more than once. Suppose someone has been infected and successfully treated. In that case, they can still be re-infected if exposed again to the parasite through sexual contact with an infected partner. Repeated exposure without protective measures can lead to recurrent infections.

Citations:
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