Trichomoniasis (Trichomonal Vaginitis; “Trich”)

Esta guía en Español Young men's version of this guide

female gender symbolTrichomoniasis is a common type of vaginal infection (vaginitis). It occurs in both teens and adults.

What causes trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is caused by a single-cell parasite called a trichomonad. Unlike yeast infections, you get trichomoniasis through sexual intercourse, so it is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It’s NOT spread by toilet seats.

The parasite affects the vulva, vagina, cervix, urethra (the canal that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body), and bladder (where urine/pee is stored) of women and the penis of men.

Who is at risk for trichomoniasis?

An estimated 3.7 million people in the United States are infected with Trichomoniasis. During sex, the parasite is transferred from one person to another. Since it is an STI, having more than one sexual partner increases the chance of getting trichomoniasis.

What are some signs/symptoms of trichomoniasis?

Most people with trichomoniasis do not have symptoms, so they may not get tested and treated. Even if there are no symptoms, a person can spread the infection to their partners.

About 30% of women with trichomoniasis have symptoms of infection. Signs of trichomoniasis may include a yellow-gray-green, frothy vaginal discharge with a foul or fishy odor. The vagina and vulva may appear red and burn or itch. It may be painful to pee or have sex.

How can a health care provider tell if I have trichomoniasis?

A cotton swab can be used to take a sample of your vaginal discharge for testing. A health care provider can use a microscope to look for the trichomonad parasite or the sample can be sent for special testing (DNA tests, RNA tests, and NAAT test). A urine sample can also be used to diagnose trichomoniasis. A health care provider may do a pelvic or speculum exam if you have symptoms of trichomoniasis.

Are there complications of trichomoniasis?

Having trichomoniasis can increase your risk of getting or spreading other sexually transmitted infections. For example, having trichomoniasis can cause genital inflammation, which can make it easier to get infected with or spread HIV to a sexual partner. Additionally, women with HIV who have trichomoniasis are at increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Complications of infection while pregnant are early (preterm) delivery and low birth weight of the baby.

How is trichomoniasis treated?

If you’re diagnosed with trichomoniasis, the infection can be cured with the correct oral antibiotic (most commonly metronidazole or tinidazole). This is taken by mouth as a single dose and is only available with a prescription. It is important for both you and your sexual partner(s) to take the entire dose of the medication for treatment to be the most effective.

Before taking the medication, you and your partner(s) should let your health care provider know about any other medicines that you’re taking. Don’t drink alcohol for 24 hours after taking metronidazole or 72 hours after taking tinidazole because you can experience side effects (including nausea, vomiting, headache, and dizziness).

How do you prevent trichomoniasis?

The only way to prevent trichomoniasis completely is to not have sex. If you’re going to have sex, a latex condom is the most effective way to lower your risk of getting trichomoniasis and other STIs.