Trichomoniasis is a parasitic sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a protozoa. There are 5-7 million new cases of trichomoniasis per year in the United States alone, and it is the most common of STDs among young women.
* Causes *
The parasite that causes trichomoniasis is a one-celled protozoa called “Trichomonas vaginalis.” This organism can live briefly outside the body, so it is possible for trichomoniasis to be spread through the shared use of moist items such as sheets, towels, or clothes, but this is the exception.
Generally trichomoniasis is passed sexually. It can be easily transmitted from men to women, from women to men, and from women to women. It is not typically transmitted from men to men.
* Symptoms *
If symptoms occur at all, it generally takes between 3 and 28 days for them to develop. However, some women are asymptomatic, and most men are. This is one of the reasons the disease is so common; people can easily pass it along because they themselves don’t realize they have it.
Not only are men less likely to be symptomatic, their symptoms also tend to be milder. Men’s symptoms can include any or all of the following:
* Discharge from the penis
* Tingling or discomfort in the penis
* Pain or a burning sensation during or after urination
* Pain or a burning sensation during or after ejaculation
Symptoms of trichomoniasis in women, which sometimes worsen during menstruation, can include any or all of the following:
* A frothy, strong-smelling vaginal discharge, which can be gray, green, white or yellow
* Genital itching and/or burning
* Redness around the vagina
* Pain during intercourse
* Pain during urination
* Abdominal pain
* Diagnosis *
To test for trichomoniasis, doctors take a swab of the vagina or urethra, called a “wet mount,” and look at it under the microscope to check for the protozoa. Not all women with trichomoniasis will have visible protozoa on a wet mount, so if that is inconclusive, the doctor may also culture the vaginal secretions.
If these tests are not run, trichomoniasis can sometimes be misdiagnosed as a yeast infection.
* Treatment *
Trichomoniasis is treated with antibiotics. It can usually be cured with one megadose pill, or if side effects are a concern, in smaller doses 2-3 times a day for 7-10 days. Usually metronidazole is taken, sometimes tinidazole. There are also creams or gels that can be used, but they are not as effective as the oral medications.
Both the patient and any sex partner(s) should be treated for trichomoniasis at the same time, and should avoid unprotected sex until the infection is cured. Otherwise the protozoa could just be passed back and forth.
Even if trichomoniasis is asymptomatic, it should not be left untreated. Evidence indicates there is an increased likelihood of transmission of the HIV virus to or from a woman with trichomoniasis. Also, a pregnant women suffering from trichomoniasis is more likely to deliver prematurely or to give birth to a low birthweight baby, and can also pass the infection on to the baby.
Elizabeth Boskey, “Trichomoniasis.” About.com.
“Trichomoniasis.” Mayo Clinic.