Trichomoniasis is a parasitic sexually transmitted disease (STD). Caused by a one-celled protozoa, called the Trichomonas vaginalis, it is one of the most common of STDs with 5-7 million new cases in the United States alone.
Though the protozoa that causes trichomoniasis can live briefly outside the body, and so trichomoniasis can occasionally be spread through the shared use of sheets, towels, or clothes, normally it is transmitted sexually from men to women, from women to men, or from women to women. It is not typically transmitted from men to men.
Trichomoniasis for most people is not one of the more scary STDs. Many people are asymptomatic, and the rest mostly are affected in ways that are uncomfortable and unpleasant rather than more significantly damaging. Plus it’s fully curable.
However, there are two respects in which for a minority of people it will be a much bigger deal. One, it appears there is at least some increase in likelihood of transmission of the HIV virus to or from a woman with trichomoniasis. Two, there is also some correlation of pregnant women suffering from trichomoniasis with premature delivery or low birthweight.
If there are to be symptoms at all, they usually develop within between 3 and 28 days.
Men with trichomoniasis typically have no symptoms. For the minority who do have symptoms, they are generally mild and can include a discharge from the penis, a tingling inside the penis, and/or pain or a burning sensation during or after urination or ejaculation.
More women (though not all) are symptomatic. These symptoms can include a frothy, colored, vaginal discharge with a strong odor; burning, itching, or redness around the vagina; discomfort during or after intercourse or urination; or abdominal pain. Symptoms sometimes worsen during menstruation.
To test for trichomoniasis, doctors use what’s called a wet mount. A swab is taken of the vagina or urethra and looked at under the microscope. The test is not conclusive however, as not everyone with trichomoniasis will have visible organisms on a wet mount. Trichomoniasis can also easily be mistaken for a yeast infection.
Trichomoniasis is treated with antibiotics, either in one megadose pill, or 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 medication.
Of course it is important that any sex partners of the patient-symptomatic or not-also be treated at the same time, otherwise the protozoa can easily be passed back and forth.
Elizabeth Boskey, “Trichomoniasis.” About.com.
“Trichomoniasis.” Mayo Clinic.