Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a protozoan parasite called “Trichomonas vaginalis”. These single celled parasitic organisms can cause a range of symptoms in those infected – but most worryingly can cause no symptoms at all.
Only about 30% of those infected with the disease will develop symptoms, meaning it’s very easy to carry the disease and pass it on without even knowing you are doing so. Treatment is very easy, being a single dose of an antibiotic (metronidazole or tinidazole) but as you might not have any symptoms and detecting the protozoan parasite requires a swab of your genitals and an examination of the sample under a microscope this infection can go completely unnoticed.
This probably explains why the Microbiology Lab at Rhode Island Hospital estimate infection rates at “double that of gonorrhea or chlamydia combined”, with a high prevelance in women aged 36 to 45. Presumably the lack of symtoms in 70% of those infected many women simply carry the infection without knowing it’s there. Untreated the infection persists in women whereas in men it can typically be expelled from their systems in a couple of weeks.
Symptoms (if they occur) can take from five days to several weeks to appear after initial infection.
In men if you do become infected with Trichomoniasis you may experience mild symptoms of irritation after urination or ejaculating, or even discharge from your penis.
Women infected with Trichomoniasis may experience itching or burning in their genital area, especially after urination and may experience a discharge that ranges in colour from clear, through white and yellow to even green. This may be accompanied by an unusual odour.
Trichomoniasis can make sex uncomfortable and unpleasant – a situation that might last for years if untreated.
For both sexes the discomfort of having Trichomoniasis is relatively minor in that this completely treatable disease can make you more susceptible to contracting other STIs, including HIV from sexual partners, and then passing that infection to other partners.
Pregnant women suffering from Trichomoniasis are more likely to give birth to smaller babies and have an increased risk of delivering early. There is some evidence that Trichomoniasis causes cervical cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
The best way to avoid getting this particular STI is the same as for every other sexually transmitted disease is to be open and frank about sex with your partner before you start having sex. If they or you have any symptoms of Trichomoniasis or any other STI you should get yourselves tested before you engage in intercourse. Of course that is not the way the world works and when passion takes over it’s unrealistic to expect you to hold off jumping in the sack until the results of your STI tests come through.
You could try using condoms, though the protozoan nature of this infection means that they are not 100% effective at preventing the spread of this particular infection.
If you do get infected, then get treated as soon as possible and don’t have sex until the symptoms have disappeared completely – Usually about a week or so. Above all take responsibility for your own sexual health both in terms of Trichomoniasis, other STIs and unwanted pregnancies. Use condoms get any symptoms checked out immediately by healthcare professionals and get yourself treated as soon as possible.