Trichomoniasis 101

trichmoniasis 101 in orange on a light pink background with an illustration of a doctor next to it

TL;DR 📚

  • What: STI caused by infection with Trichomonas vaginalis (a protozoan parasite)
  • Type of infection: Acute, curable
  • Symptoms: Burning after peeing or ejaculating, discharge from the penis, itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals, or a clear, white, yellowish, or greenish vaginal discharge (i.e., thin discharge or increased volume) with an unusual odor
  • Transmission: Unprotected sex or sharing sex toys— can spread from penis to vagina, vagina to penis, or vagina/vulva to vagina/vulva
  • Prevention: Barrier methods, getting tested
  • Testing: Through pelvic exam and lab test from a genital swab, sometimes through urine test
  • Treatment: Antibiotics

What

Trichomoniasis (aka trich) is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis that is transmitted easily during sex. It is the most common curable STI and is carried in pre cum, semen, and vaginal fluids. Often spread through penetrative vaginal sex, it can also be transmitted through vulva-to-vulva contact, sharing sex toys, or touching your own or your partner’s genitals if you have infected fluid on your hand. Trich most commonly infects the lower genital tract (vulva, vagina, cervix, or urethra) and is not typically spread through anal or oral sex.

Symptoms

While approximately 70% of people with trich are asymptomatic. It is less likely to cause symptoms in people with penises. When folks do have symptoms, they can be mild and may be confused with a different infection like a yeast infection or UTI. Symptoms typically show up anywhere from three days to a month after infection and the most common symptoms are those associated with vaginitis. These include itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals, pain during sex, or a clear, white, yellowish, or greenish vaginal discharge with an unusual smell. Other symptoms may include pain or burning during urination, frequent urination, urethral discharge, and itching or irritation inside the penis.

Prevention

The best ways to prevent transmission are by using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams, practicing sex toy hygiene (washing them or using a clean condom when sharing), and frequent testing. Knowing your STI status is power.

Testing

A trich test is taken through a urine test or by swabbing the penis or vagina. You should get tested if you have symptoms or have had sexual contact with someone with trich. Trich has a similar presentation to other STIs, so the only way to confirm it is through testing.

Treatment

Trich is easily treated with a round of antibiotics, usually just one dose of metronidazole or tinidazole. Your partners should also be treated for trich. Gone untreated, trich can leave you more susceptible to other STIs and cause problems in pregnancy such as premature birth and low birth weight.

The Bottom Line

Knowing your STI status and practicing safer sex are two key ways to protect yourself and your partners from STIs. Making your health a priority is an act of self-love. And always, we are committed to combatting the shame and stigma surrounding STIs. Your status has no impact on your worth.

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