- Caused by the single-celled protozoan parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis
- Trichomoniasis is the most common curable STD among sexually active women
- There are an estimated 5 million cases in the U.S. annually
- Approximately 30% of women with chlamydia also have trichomoniasis
How do you get it?
Trichomoniasis is transmitted through vaginal or urethral secretions during sexual contact. Non-sexual transmission is possible but extremely rare. Trichomoniasis parasites are very sensitive to drying, but can survive for several hours in various body fluids or on moist objects such as sponges or towels.
Fifty percent of women and 90% of men have no symptoms. The incubation period is from three to 28 days, but can be longer. The vulva, vaginal walls, cervix and the urethra can be affected. In females, symptoms include abnormal, increased vaginal discharge that may be white, yellow, green or gray in color. Frothy (bubbly) discharge may be thin or thick in texture. There can be itching, irritation and tenderness in the vulva area. Foul odor occurs in about 10-50% of cases. Burning can accompany urination. About 10% of women have “strawberry cervix” (the cervix is inflamed and red dots are visible from very tiny hemorrhages). In males, trichomoniasis most often infects the urethra. Urethral discharge is usually present in small amounts. Discharge may come and go. Other symptoms are burning with urination and mild itching.
The genital inflammation caused by trichomoniasis can increase a woman’s susceptibility to HIV infection if she is exposed to the virus. Having trichomoniasis may also increase the chance that an HIV-infected woman passes HIV to her sex partner(s). Trichomoniasis infection during pregnancy has been associated with premature rupture of membranes, pre-term delivery, low birth weight, and postpartum endometritis. In males, a few cases of epididymitis have been attributed to trichomoniasis, although this is still controversial.
To get tested for trichomoniasis, go to a doctor or a health clinic. A discharge sample is usually needed to test for trichomoniasis.
Trichomoniasis can be treated and cured with prescription drugs, either metronidazole or tinidazole, given by mouth in a single dose. It takes one week for the medicine to completely cure trichomoniasis. Male sex partners of infected women should be treated to avoid reinfection of the woman, or a couple should abstain from sex or use condoms for six weeks to allow the infection in the male partner to clear on its own.
- Latex condoms provide the best protection against infection.
- Talk to your sex partners about STDs before having sex.
- Limit your number of sex partners; it can lower your chances of getting infected.
For information on free and low cost STD testing and treatment services in Los Angeles County, call the STD Hotline at 1-800-758-0880 or visit our STD Testing & Services section.